Sherman's March North

Sherman Elliott, III, 36, of East Atlanta, plans to hike the Appalachian Trail in March 2015, and has been doing a lot of training for it at Stone Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain. I find it rather poetic that a black American named Sherman has been hiking around Civil War stomping grounds—but this Sherman is headed North to the "prodigious hilltops" of Maine, to Mount Katadhin, whereas William “Make Georgia Howl” Tecumseh Sherman started his very March to the Sea in the Village of Stone Mountain. In fact, the night before his trek to the sea, Sherman and his troops slept in Shermantown, the historic African-American community at the foot of Stone Mountain. Many slaves followed him to their freedom in Spanish-owned Florida, which is why the community was later named in his honor. Sherman, a former Apple Genius, has become somewhat of an unwitting expert on old “Cump” (“Uncle Billy” to his troops) over the years, simply because so many people bring him up.

Something people hardly talk about, though, is the dearth of black hikers. More spoofs like “Black Hiker” with Blair Underwood exist than do actual black hikers. Sherman is acutely aware of this, and, sadly, even had someone spit at his feet while hiking this summer. But, thankfully, more people are taking up the issue of why black people have a complicated relationship with the land and are the least likely to have a wilderness experience—people like Carolyn Finney ("Hiking While Black: The Untold Story") and Amy Marquis ("The Way Home: Returning to the National Parks").