A Buffalo Soldier with the 9th Cavalary.
As a National Park interpretive ranger, Shelton Johnson is dedicated to connecting people of all races and backgrounds to the parks and nature.
Still, he rarely sees other African-Americans in Yosemite, where he is the sole African-American ranger.
Today Johnson published the essay "National parks have room for all races" on CNN.com.
It's a simple enough message — all are welcome to enjoy these amazing places — but the cultural reality is more complex. Many minority groups are even more disassociated from nature than the average disassociated American.
Even Oprah Winfrey had never visited a national park until she and BFF Gayle King recently toured Yosemite for Oprah and Gayle’s Big Yosemite Camping Adventure (part 1 aired today, sorry for the late notice; part 2 airs November 3rd).
Johnson, whom you may recall from the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea, introduced the TV duo to Yosemite for the show.
If you can't make it to Yosemite for a personal tour, and don't watch Oprah, listen to the National Parks Conservation Association's podcast "Tour Yosemite with a Buffalo Soldier" for an historical audio tour with Johnson. Buffalo Soldiers, African-American men serving with the Ninth Cavalry, protected Yosemite and other parks as some of the very first park rangers in the early 1900s.
For bibliophiles, Johnson is also the author of Gloryland, a novel about the real-life Buffalo Soldiers.
Read "National parks have room for all races"