Green History Resources
      home     about us      contact us     visual history      reading history      multicultural quizzes      teacher feature index  


Green History

Why does a site on diversity in American history have a page on Green History? Because environmental damage is no more democratic than the economic and political systems that create it. Pollution affects poor Americans, people of color, and children disproportionately, from the location of landfills and hazardous waste dumps to the intensity of clean-up efforts--or lack thereof--in diverse neighborhods. Also, our site is dedicated to telling the untold stories of American history, and environmental history is full of them. Finally, we believe this stuff is important. Really important.

As Professor Bill Kovarik put it so beautifully: "A broad lack of historical perspective about green crusaders and environmental events has its origins in both neglect and misinformation. This lack of perspective isbecoming more obvious as environmental protection becomes an increasingly important part of the global social fabric. Issues often emerge in the mass media without context and then disappear with little more than symbolic resolution. Political conservatives seem not to recognize the reflection of their own values in conservation movements. Political liberals lack a sense of the traditions of social reform." 

The sites below range from middle school to professional level. On them you will find information to educate, inform, and inspire. If you have any suggestions of sites to add, we'd love it if you'd email us at

Environmental History Timeline
Professor Bill Kovarik's site is just what it says it is, only more. This site presents a detailed and interesting timeline of environmental issues and activists from ancient times through the present. As the site states: "Environmental issues have surfaced throughout human history. The evidence is in manuscripts, publications and historical archives, but it is often found under labels like public health, conservation, preservation of nature, smoke abatement, municipal housekeeping, occupational disease, air pollution and water pollution."

A Brief History of Environmentalism
This document by Andy Reynolds is a short narrative history of environmentalism from the 1840s through the modern era.

A History of  the American Environmental Movement
This site from is a timeline that covers environmentalism in the United States from the 1840s through the present. Ectopia has also created an Ecology Hall of Fame which contains biographies, excerpts, and more on major figures in American environmentalism.

Environmental Ethics
For those who are of a more intellectual and philosophical bent, this site, created by the Center for Environmental Philosophy at the University of North Texas, offers a brief history of environmental ethics beginning in the 1970s.

Periods and Events in the Emergence of American Environmentalism
A detailed outline written by Associate Professor Gene Myers, Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, includes events and individuals connected to the development of environmentalism in the United States. Meyers starts in the English colonial period and highlights European philosophical sources as well.

Conservation, Preservation, and Environmental Activism: A Survey of the Historical Literature

This page--part of the National Park Service web site--offers an excellent overview and an incredibly wide-ranging annotated bibliography including books that cover subjects such as "The Conservation Movement," "Nature and American Culture," "The Environmental Movement" and "The First Anti-Pollution Campaigns."

The Center for Environmental Justice
has a very short page on its site: History of Black Environmentalism. It also has a very short page: A Selection of African-American Environmental Heroes. Both of these pages are good a beginning that just points to the need for more scholarship in the area of multicultural involvement in environmentalism.

The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492
This paper by William M. Denevan, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, offers a fascinating challenge to the perception that North America was a "pristine, untouched wilderness" prior to the encroachment of the Europeans. This paper is college level and requires careful reading. There are also a number of translation glitches and/or typos that make careful reading an essential requirement.

Nature Transformed: The Environment in American HIstory

A National Humanities Center site which offers essays by scholars on subjects such as "Native Americans and the Land," "Wilderness and American Identity," and "The Use of the Land."

Articles and Papers
"Blacks, Whites share concerns about environment" (Black Issues in Higher Education, July 17, 2003)
Reviews the study, "Dispelling Old Myths: African American Concern for the Environment," written by Dr. Paul Mohai, associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment, which was cover story for the June 2003 issue of Environment magazine.

"The First Environmentalists"
This well-written article by Mindy Pennybacker--published in The Nation, January 20, 2000--examines Winona LaDuke's All Our Relations and the disproportionate amount of environmental degradation occurring on American Indian reservations. It also explores, briefly, The Ecological Indian, by Shepard Krech III and the debate over whether first Americans were natural environmentals, or not.

"Wilderness, Race, and African Americans: An Environmental History from Slavery to Jim Crow"
This thesis paper by Michael Starkey was submitted to filfill an M.A. dregree for the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

Environmentalism: A Global History by Ramachandra Guha, Prentice Hall (2000)
The first genuinely global history of environmentalism and written by one of the foremost thinkers on ecological issues relating to South Africa. Ramachandra Guha has become one of the more provocative and perceptive commentators on environmentalism in its cross-cultural and global dimensions. College level students will find this new text to be a lively and engaging study of ideas and debates that are central to our lives in the twentieth-first century.

Natural Protest: Essays on the History of American Environmentalism, edited by Michael Egan and Jeff Crane, Routledge, (2008)
From Jamestown to 9/11, concerns about the landscape, husbanding of natural resources, and the health of our environment have been important to the American way of life. Natural Protest is the first collection of original essays to offer a cohesive social and political examination of environmental awareness, activism, and justice throughout American history. Editors Michael Egan and Jeff Crane have selected the finest new scholarship in the field, establishing this complex and fascinating subject firmly at the forefront of American historical study.

Major Problems in American Environmental History, 2nd edition, edited by Carolyn Merchant and Thomas Paterson, Wadsworth Publishing (2006). 
This volume traces the history of environmental conditions in the United States through the examination of critical issues such as pollution, conservation, and wilderness preservation. The Second Edition of this popular text includes several new essays and documents and pays particular attention to multiculturalism and gender throughout. In order to place American environmental issues in a larger context, the text emphasizes international relations and globalization.

Women Pioneers for the Environment by Mary Joy Breton, University Press of New England (1998)
Inspiring stories of more than forty remarkable women from across the globe, each of whom stepped out of her traditional role and dedicated her life to saving the planet.

To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History, edited by Dianne D. Glave and Mark Stoll, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.
"Will help set the course for emerging African American environmental historical scholarship. This collection of essays will enhance not only the existing but also future environmental histriography by including the added and much needed perspectives of race and gender." --Journal of American Ethnic History

African American Environmental Thought: Foundations (American Political Thought), by Kimberly K. Smith, University Press of Kansas, 2007.
Beginning with environmental critiques of slave agriculture in the early nineteenth century and evolving through critical engagements with scientific racism, artistic primitivism, pragmatism, and twentieth-century urban reform, Smith highlights the continuity of twentieth-century black politics with earlier efforts by slaves and freedmen to possess the land. She examines the works of such canonical figures as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Alain Locke, all of whom wrote forcefully about how slavery and racial oppression affected black Americans' relationship to the environment. --book description

An Environmental History of Latin America (New Approaches to the Americas) , by Shawn William Miller, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
This book narrates the mutually mortal historical contest between humans and nature in Latin America. Covering a period that begins with Amerindian civilizations and concludes in the region's present urban agglomerations, the work offers an original synthesis of the current scholarship on Latin America's environmental history and argues that tropical nature played a central role in shaping the region's historical development. Seeing Latin America's environmental past from the perspective of many centuries illustrates that human civilizations, ancient and modern, have been simultaneously more powerful and more vulnerable than previously thought. --book description
"For years to come, studies of Latin American environmental history will have to begin with references to Shawn Miller's book." - Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History, and Geography, University of Texas at Austin

See books on other subjects on our Books pages.

The Farm Security Administration photographs at the Library of Congress
The Farm Security Administration (FSA) collection is justly famous for its images of Americans struggling through the Depression. Less famous but also important are the photographs of the devastation of the land. Type in the word "erosion" and find images from Mississippi to Illinois to California. Type in "Conservation" and look through the 607 images that come up. All the images are in the public domain. Excellent download quality. There is also a musch smaller FSA Color Photograph collection that might appeal to students who aren't used to seeing the world in black and white.

National Archives and Records Administration 
In the 1970s the Environmental Protection Agency sent photographers all over the United States to take photographs of pollution and its effects. The collection, "DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, compiled 1972 - 1977," is similar in scope if not quality to the FSA photograph collection, these EPA photographs are an underutilized treasure. The National Archives search engine is called ARC and you can get very detailed in what types of searches you want to do. However, the site can be a bit glitchy, so be careful.  All Archives images are in the public domain. Excellent download quality.

Also check out our guide to Image Research Online where there are even more sites with digitized images.




Eroded land on a farm in Greene County, Georgua, 1941. Photo by Jack Delano. Library of Congress, neg #: LC-DIG-fsac-1a34073.





An experimental electric car built by the Environmental Protection Agency, October, 1973. Photo by Frank Lodge. National Archives, neg #: NWDNS-412-DA-10305.



Trash next to a road in Calcasieu, Lake Charles, Louisiana, June, 1972.
Photo by Marc St. Gil. National Archives, neg #: NWDNS-412-DA-3633.