National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Discusses “Gloryland”

National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Discusses “Gloryland”

Even though we might be seeing the back end of the global Covid-19 Pandemic many of us are still stuck at home wading through endless meetings over Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms. With the hopes of creating a little community spirit and to encourage folks out there to step away from their screens and maybe crack open a book instead, I started a little group called the Joy Trip Reading Project. Each month we’re taking a deep dive into stories of primarily Black authors whose work centers around nature and the identity many of us share in common as people who love the great outdoors.

In February, for Black History Month, the title we read was Gloryland, by National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson. This novel is the story of a Black American sergeant in the United States Army at the turn of the last century. As a member of the Buffalo Soldiers, the principle character, Elijah Yancy, reveals to us the life and times of the men who were among the world’s original protectors of public land at the National Parks of Yosemite and Sequoia. Not enough people know that in 1903 the first superintendent of Sequoia was a Black American U.S. Cavalry officer by the name of Captain Charles Young. Despite the national climate of Jim Crow segregation these men were among our first National Park Rangers During a time when race relation in this country were at their most abysmal, the Buffalo Soldiers fought to preserve the best idea America ever had.

Unfortunately, because of some technical difficulties connecting with Ranger Johnson over Zoom I literally had to hold my cellphone up to my computer microphone to conduct this interview. Sorry in advance for the marginal sound quality, but under the circumstances, really can you do? I’m James Edward Mills and you’re listening to the Joy Trip Project.



Music courtesy of Artlist featuring the band Muted, Steve Poloni and Ty Simon.



The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to support of Seirus Innovation and Outdoor Research.


This recording of the Joy Trip Reading Project was created in partnership with University of Wisconsin Madison Nelson Institute For Environmental Studies. Here we acknowledge the ancestral homeland of the Ho-Chunk People on the sacred land known for time and memorial as DeJope. Wherever you are in North American please recognize the native people of the place you now call home.

Thanks for listening, but as  always, I want to hear from you so please drop me in note in the comments with your questions, comments or criticisms or write to me via email at You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you liked this episode please write me a review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts. For now, go be joyful and until next time. Take care.


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