The Last Act of The Civil Rights Movement: The Embrace of the Earth


“You shouldn’t have to convince people to go to paradise,”
–Shelton Johnson, Ranger, Yosemite National Park

Speaking in front of a group of African American visitors, Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson poses as a sergeant of the Ninth Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, or one of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who protected settlers during the Indian and Spanish American Wars of the nineteenth century. For many African Americans, a trip to a national park had always been but a dream, an impossibility, something reserved for others; over the years, this story has been changing. What may appear to be a common legacy preserved for all Americans—the national park—turns out to be the resting place of a charged intersection between the past and the present and of a historical awareness whose erasure has as much to do with racial history as it does with a fundamental sense of humanity and appreciation of the land.

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