A Darker Wilderness
A vibrant collection of personal and lyric essays in conversation with archival objects of Black history and memory.
What are the politics of nature? Who owns it, where is it, what role does it play in our lives? Does it need to be tamed? Are we ourselves natural? In A Darker Wilderness, a constellation of luminary writers reflect on the significance of nature in their lived experience and on the role of nature in the lives of Black folks in the United States. Each of these essays engages with a single archival object, whether directly or obliquely, exploring stories spanning hundreds of years and thousands of miles, traveling from roots to space and finding rich Blackness everywhere.
Erin Sharkey considers Benjamin Banneker’s 1795 almanac, as she follows the passing of seasons in an urban garden in Buffalo. Naima Penniman reflects on a statue of Haitian revolutionary François Makandal, within her own pursuit of environmental justice. Ama Codjoe meditates on rain, hair, protest, and freedom via a photo of a young woman during a civil rights demonstration in Alabama. And so on—with wide-ranging contributions from Carolyn Finney, Ronald Greer II, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Sean Hill, Michael Kleber-Diggs, Glynn Pogue, Katie Robinson, and Lauret Savoy—unearthing evidence of the ways Black people’s relationship to the natural world has persevered through colonialism, slavery, state-sponsored violence, and structurally racist policies like Jim Crow and redlining.
A scrapbook, a family chest, a quilt—and an astounding work of historical engagement and literary accomplishment—A Darker Wilderness is a collection brimming with abundance and insight.
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Praise and Prizes
“This beautiful collection of essays offers thoroughgoing contemplations of the vexing, heartbreaking, miraculous, and wonderful questions of Black people and the land, Black people and the earth, which, as far as I’m concerned, are among the most important questions there are. I’m so glad, so grateful, to have A Darker Wilderness as guide and friend; I’m so glad we get to ask those questions together.”