Park Ranger Shelton Johnson has been telling the story of the Buffalo Soldier at Yosemite since 1998. In the late 1800s, these African American army regiments formed in the years after the Civil War and served as some of the park's first rangers.
But despite Johnson's familiarity with the story and the frequency with which he tells it to visitors at Yosemite, it is rare that he sees African Americans in his audience.
“What is hardly ever brought up,” Johnson observes, “is how that incredible, intimate connection to nature, to the wilderness, was incrementally whittled away and broken down to the point where African Americans are now the one group least likely to have a wilderness experience—the one group least likely to have an experience with the natural world.”
Follow the Los Angeles-based Amazing Grace 50+ Club as they rekindle their relationship to nature and to a history their ancestors may have played a role in.
“The last act of the civil rights movement is this embrace of the earth, this embrace of the continent,” Johnson says. “If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be first and foremost to say we as a people need to go to Yellowstone, we need to go to the Grand Canyon. Because if this is America's best idea and we played a role in this creation, how dare we not choose that for ourselves."