Events

Feb 3

Convocation: Shelton Johnson

From site: Convocations

Shelton Johnson is the author of Gloryland, the fictional memoir of a buffalo soldier – a black U.S. cavalryman and the son of slaves – who finds true freedom when he is posted to patrol the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. Johnson is an advocate for bringing minorities, particularly African-Americans from the inner city, like himself, to the National Parks and connect them to the natural world. He claims that "one of the great losses to African culture from slavery was the loss of kinship with the earth." Although he was born in Detroit and spent much of his childhood there, early on he briefly lived in Germany where his father was stationed in the Army. A family trip to the Bavarian Alps planted a seed in him, a seed that was kept alive only through later experiences with nature via television and movie screens. He dreamed of mountains as a boy growing up in Detroit. While doing graduate study in poetry at the University of Michigan, Johnson applied to be a seasonal worker at Yellowstone thinking the park would provide a quiet place to work on his writing. That visit would change the course of his life and his career, which has spanned twenty-five years as a ranger with the National Park Service. He dedicated his work to this issue when he came upon the history of Buffalo Soldiers (the African-American regiments of the segregated U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century) in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. For the past fifteen years Johnson has told the story of the Buffalo Soldiers in print, on camera, and in person. He has traveled to public schools throughout America, tracked down descendants of the soldiers, and authored an award-winning website. All the while, he has remained true to the reason he started this work. "I can’t forget that little black kid in Detroit," he says. "And I think of the other kids, just like me – in Detroit, Oakland, Watts, Anacostia – today. How do I get them here? How do I let them know that our national parks are part of their heritage, and that they own them like all Americans?" The title of his presentation is "Gloryland: Using History and Literature as Tools for Social Change.”

Friday, February 3rd, 2012
10:50 am / Skinner Chapel

Sponsored by College Relations. Contact: Kerry Raadt, College Relations, x4308