The Lack of Nature-Based Literature by Black Authors In Bookstores

It has been, for several years, common knowledge that Universities rarely push concepts or theories catalyzed by Black naturalists, scientists, or authors. Throughout my career, exposure to nature-based literature by Black authors has been a venture that I have had to embark on alone, on my own time. Professors never required me to read books by Carolyn Finney or Harriet A. Washington, but I've often been required to read the works of Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, or [of course] Charles Darwin.

However, recently I've learned that the lack of reading materials authored by Black naturalists and environmental scientists isn't an ignominy that Universities carry alone. I've recently discovered that several used/new bookstores do not carry ANY nature-based literature by Black authors. Bookstores like Barnes and Nobles carry such literature, but often many titles will have to be ordered and are sometimes not immediately available in stores. Half Price Books, one of the largest family-owned retailers of new and used books in the United States, also does not seem to carry many nature-based books by Black authors in store.

Actually, after calling several of their stores in the Dallas area and visiting their largest store off of Northwest highway in Dallas Texas, I came to the conclusion that the family-owned retailer had NO books authored by Black naturalists. The only Carolyn Finney book the retailer had, amongst its massive inventory of over a million books, was at a small location in Pennsylvania. The large Northwest highway location had no books by Finney, Washington, Mills, Dungy, Lugo, Savoy, Deming, Waldron, Kimmerer, or Lanham at any of their Texas locations. They are all prominent authors, but none of their works are available at one of the largest retailers of new and used books in the country.

When I asked the store representatives where I could find nature-based literature by Black authors they pointed me to the African American section of the store. "You might find something there or in the clearance section." She said, before actually referencing the online database for the many Black authors I mentioned above to no avail. The African American section was a small section towards the back of the store, near the restrooms and clearance section. After scanning the four shelves of books, it was evident that there were no nature-based pieces present. I returned to the help-counter and again inquired about nature-based literature by Black authors, but the two representatives shrugged their shoulders and simply stated that they could help me no further. Their online database was lacking.

So then I am left to ponder two questions. Where are all the nature-based books authored by Black naturalists and why are all books by Black authors simply pushed to the "African American" section of any bookstore? Why can Finney not occupy the same shelf as Goodall? Why can Mills not share a section with Darwin or Roosevelt? There's plenty of space on the shelves in the "Science and Nature" section, where many of these works are meant to be stored, but perhaps there's just not enough space in the scientific community for Black authors (or simply a society's refusal to make space). Regardless, it is clear that the best way to purchase nature-based titles by Black authors is directly from the author or through Amazon.

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