Tag: Human/Nature

In Search of Maudell Sleet’s Garden

In Search of Maudell Sleet’s Garden

Glenda Gilmore

Art offers an archive that documents the environmental past. As cities grew quickly in the New South at the start of the twentieth century, women established urban gardens that provided self-sufficiency and meager profits for their households. Urban planners and zoning eliminated most of these opportunities by the late 1930s. The artist Romare Bearden, born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1911, recalled in his art the beauty of urban gardens among African American homes. This article considers those gardening practices through two Bearden collages centered on the unknown gardener Maudell Sleet and chronicles how cities changed with the demise of urban gardening.

Take Me to the River

Take Me to the River

Grace Hale

A new installment of our Shutter series on photography to accompany Southern Cultures’s special “Human/ Nature” Issue. Grace Hale discusses the work of artist Dave Woody and his photographs of the James River around Richmond, Virginia.

No Ark

No Ark

Nikole Brown

Poem for the Human/Nature issue by Nikole Brown.

Me and Papa and Aldo Leopold

Me and Papa and Aldo Leopold

Anna Zeide

Anna Zeide grew up as the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants in the woods of southern Arkansas. Her father Boris was an eccentric professor of forestry, whose research touched on Aldo Leopold, a leading thinker in the history of ecology and wilderness conservation. When Anna’s academic path unexpectedly led her to graduate study in the history of science and the environment at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she rediscovered Leopold, who had been a professor there in the 1930s and ’40s. Tragically, Boris died in the middle of Anna’s time in graduate school, which led her to return to his past work on Leopold in an effort to recover her and her father’s intellectual connections amid her grief. As she unearthed the controversial reactions to his work, which was critical of Leopold’s ideas of ecosystem thinking, she came to reckon with ideas of authorial identity, family history, and environmental thought.

Snapshot: The Land, 2018

Snapshot: The Land, 2018

Timothy Ivy

For this short “Snapshot” feature, photographers selected one of their photographs and wrote a short reflection on what it shows us about the ever-shifting relationship between people and place in the South.

Quicker than Coal Ash

Quicker than Coal Ash

Will Warasila

The people of Walnut Cove, North Carolina, live in the shadow of Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station, where toxic coal ash is kept in a massive unlined storage pond, and toxins are pumped into the air, water, and soil. “Quicker than Coal Ash” depicts the slow violence of coal ash and its effect on the residents, the landscape, and the structures of energy and power. The harm done to the land and its residents is invisible. Nevertheless, this series of photographs attempts to address that harm. Anne Branigin’s introduction to these photos explores the history of coal ash in North Carolina, connecting it to broader environmental justice struggles across the United States. Walnut Cove is far from alone. But despite the massive amount of coal ash the United States produces each year, not enough is known about the health impacts on neighboring communities, also known as “sacrifice zones” or “fenceline communities.” Often, the residents of these areas are politically and socially marginalized: people of color, economically disadvantaged, and too often ignored.

Snapshot: Fish Display, 2014

Snapshot: Fish Display, 2014

Richard Knox Robinson

For this short “Snapshot” feature, photographers selected one of their photographs and wrote a short reflection on what it shows us about the ever-shifting relationship between people and place in the South.

Mulberry Season Again

Mulberry Season Again

Lisa Sorg

This essay reflects nature’s importance in coping with the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic shutdown and public health crisis inspired many people to reconnect with the natural world, which is also in turmoil because of climate change. The essay explores the circles of life and death through a bountiful mulberry tree that grows in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, near the grave of Leon Jeffers.

Snapshot: Jean Hooper, 2018

Snapshot: Jean Hooper, 2018

Justin Cook

For this short “Snapshot” feature, photographers selected one of their photographs and wrote a short reflection on what it shows us about the ever-shifting relationship between people and place in the South.

The Knife’s Edge of Ruin

The Knife’s Edge of Ruin

Madison W. Cates

This article uses largely untapped source collections to show how African Americans built movements for economic and environmental justice in Lowcountry South Carolina by the early 1970s. Looking at the area around Hilton Head Island, the essay starts by explaining how Black Gullah communities faced devastating land loss due to economic, legal, and demographic pressures. Into this context, the BASF company announced plans in late 1969 to build a petrochemical plant just west of Hilton Head. Although many Black leaders saw the plant increasing the purchasing power of their communities, others dissented out of concerns for industrial pollution’s threat to maritime industries. By June 1970, a temporary alliance between a Black fishing cooperative, white developers, and white retirees defeated the project. By studying these unusual alliances, this article helps explain how Black southerners shaped national debates about environmentalism even as Hilton Head became a well-preserved but exclusive landscape.

Snapshot: Water Treatment, 2020

Snapshot: Water Treatment, 2020

Monique Verdin

For this short “Snapshot” feature, photographers selected one of their photographs and wrote a short reflection on what it shows us about the ever-shifting relationship between people and place in the South.

Louisiana Trail Riders

Louisiana Trail Riders

Jeremiah Ariaz

Black trail-riding clubs have their roots in Creole culture that formed in South Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Today, trail rides are an opportunity for generations of people to gather, celebrate, and ride horseback. The riders form a distinctive yet little-known subculture in Southwest Louisiana, one that exists in stark contrast to most depictions of cowboys and serves as a reminder that Black equestrian culture stems from a time when the Louisiana Territory was in fact the American West. Black riders across the country have received greater prominence with the rise of Black Lives Matter and have taken the reins of a symbol long associated with independence and power.