Appalachian Trail Histories


Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Bulletin

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Bulletin

In a section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Bulletin released in July of 1940, it notes, "as early as 1936 Negro traffic was beginning to appear." This was an observation made by members of the club on picnic grounds in Shenandoah National Park. 

As we remember back to Rahway Haile’s account, she recalls only seeing one person of color on her entire thru hike of the AT. Remembering back to Robert Taylor’s account, he had faced harsh discrimination specifically hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the late 90’s; so it is no surprise that in the late 1930’s the local population was shocked to see African Americans out freely around Shenandoah National Park.

There is not much information on how the local population responded to this however I can imagine it being a bit of confusion as to why black people were in white spaces. Nonetheless, this is the first and only bit of hard evidence I have as to when African Americans first appeared on the trail, still, it was not common to find blacks on the trail at all at the time. Overtime, it has become more socially acceptable for people of color to spend time in nature as they please. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would bat an eye if they saw a black person hiking, simply because as a society we have tabooed racial discrimination and prejudice. It is important to not loose sight of the fact that there are still conversations to be had and barriers to be broken as it related to people of color and outdoor activities.