White by Nature: African American perspectives on United States National Park Visitation

Authors: Selima Sultana*, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, SELIMA SULTANA, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Josh Merced, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Tourism Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: African American, Black, National Park, Visitation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 43
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The framing of National Parks in the United States as “America’s Best Idea” has undergone an interdisciplinary critique for the absence of addressing the scarcity of racial minority visitors, with particular concern of African-American visitation. The underrepresentation of African-American visitors challenges the perception that public land is accessible to all. African Americans population in America have prevailed, and continue to prevail, their way through social obstacles engrained in regularly consumed institutions. Slavery, segregation, and ongoing racial politics demands a process of unlearning and undoing by centering African American voices. This research examines visitation motivations and deterrents of visiting National Parks using the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most attended in the United States, as a case study. Focus groups and interviews were conducted to further the understanding of Black perspectives of nature and National Parks, and an archival study was conducted to identify gaps in publicly accessible literature produced by or about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that results in the underrepresentation of racial minority visitation. This research contributes to the broader understanding of how landscapes and institutions are racialized, and how the power of narrative can be used to dismantle racialization.

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