Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Lack of Blacks at National Parks Worries Ranger

August 17, 2009, 7:59 am

America's national parks have a quiet power and an arresting beauty, but to Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, they also speak the truth.

"They tell the story of us as Americans," Johnson said. "They tell the story of ourselves as human beings, in this world, on this planet."

Johnson is one of the country's few African-American park rangers, and his is a rare face of color at Yosemite because less than 1 percent of visitors to the national park in California are black.

"There's not a shortage of African Americans at Disneyland or Disney World," Johnson said. "But when you visit these wild places, like Zion and Arches and Yellowstone, that's when you start seeing less cultural diversity."

Johnson, 51, said he would like that to change, but he believes the disconnect between blacks and nature has deep roots. Slavery, he said, forever altered how African Americans view natural lands.

"There's actual pain, physical and spiritual pain, tied to working the earth," Johnson said. "There's just been this gradual loss of connection with the natural world."

Read more at abcnews.go.com.

Image source: NPS.gov.

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