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Currently on View

Love Land. Love People.

This exhibit exists in eastern Iowa on the ancestral lands of the Illini people.

I joke that the bush is in my blood.

I am born of rivers and mountains, news playing on the radio in the background, and always carrying a book when we went on the road. I believe that to learn about the land is to learn about yourself and those around you. I believe that to care for the land is to care for yourself and those around you.

These works are centered on how black people in the United States experience the land. The discourse around environmentalism in the US has been one that excludes and erases the presence and influence of people of colour. According to the environmental justice scholar, Robert Bullard, “The nation was founded on the principles of ‘free land’ (stolen from Native Americans and Mexicans), ‘free labor’ (cruelly extracted from African slaves), and ‘free men’ (white men with property)”. This list includes works on Native American knowledge of plants and botany (Braiding Sweetgrass), black farmers in the US (Farming While Black, Freedom Farmers), articles that discuss environmental justice (Environmentalism’s Racist History, The Great Land Robbery), environmental poetry by black authors (Black Nature, We Bleed Like Mango), and a list celebrating the work of fifty people making environmental change – from teachers to policy makers to chefs (Grist 50:2019).

Curated by Keren Alfred

Keren Alfred is an environmentalist and an artist. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, she has been fascinated with learning about the land and the environment since she started reading. She majored in Environmental Studies at Brown University but made sure to take art classes as well. After working for a year at an environmental non-profit, she decided to spend time focusing on her art. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Book Arts at the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book. Keren’s work shows the ways plants influence culture – particularly in the Caribbean. She hopes to get more people to pay attention to the land around them and to learn to take care of it. You can find some of her work on Instagram. (@kerencreates)


Blacks and the Environment (1987)

Robert Bullard & Beverly Hendrix Wright

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In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (2009)

Judith Ann Carney

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Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009)

Camille Dungy

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Grassroots Activism: An Exploration of Women of Color’s Role in the Environmental Justice Movement (2009)

Shirley A. Rainey & Glenn S. Johnson


Black on Earth (2010)

Kimberly Ruffin

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The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States (2013)

Mark Fiege

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Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (2015)

Robin Wall Kimmerer

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Are there two different versions of environmentalism, one “white”, one “black”? (2014)

Brentin Mock

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Black Faces, White Spaces (2014)

Carolyn Finney

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Environmentalism’s Racist History (2015)

Jedediah Purdy

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Octavia’s Brood (2015)

adrienne maree brown & Walidah Imarisha

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Emergent Strategy (2017)

adrienne mare brown

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We Bleed Like Mango (2017)

Ashia Ajani

A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (2018)

Kathryn Yusoff

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Farming While Black (2018)

Leah Penniman

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Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (2018)

Monica M. White

M Archive: After the End of the World (2018)

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

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Black Women are Leading the Way in Environmental Justice (2019)

Samantha Willis

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Environmental Ethics: A Short Introduction (2019)

Robin Attfield

2019 Grist 50

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The Great Land Robbery

Vann R. Newkirk II

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