Black history is often told through the lens of slavery and segregation, focusing on centuries of struggle instead of focusing on the progress and positive progress that black people continue to face in the face of ‘adversity. Unfortunately, the story of travel is no different: textbooks and heritage sites often omit black historical accounts and pioneers of travel, instead highlighting traditionally romanticized and comfortable versions of predominantly white history. masculine and eurocentric.
Following another round of high-profile brutality against black people in the summer of 2020, black tour operators shared loud and clear that a spotlight on systemic racism within the tourism industry was long overdue. since a long time. This global consideration of race has led to big questions, like why the travel industry has to deal with its own (lack of) diversity and how the history of black travel has historically been left behind. Nearly two years later, the recent pushback against anti-racism teaching in American public schools has many educators and parents concerned about how government-imposed censorship continues to whitewash and romanticize history lesson plans. American. These concerns are resonating within the tourism industry, with tourist sites, destinations and museums questioning their role in how the telling of marginalized narratives, particularly black history, should be represented.
Recognizing these glaring inequalities, the Black Travel Alliance, a non-profit organization created to encourage, educate and equip black travel professionals, has partnered with the organization we co-lead, Tourism RESET, an interdisciplinary initiative of research and advocacy that seeks to identify, study and challenge patterns of social inequality in the tourism industry. We collectively decided that we could no longer wait for black travel history to be readily available and accessible to the public. As educators committed to social equity and inclusion, we believe that now is the time to teach the public how the African diaspora has walked every inch of the earth and how they have gradually left their mark on the travel industry, for centuries. passed to the present day.
Thus, the “History Of Black Travel” timeline was born.
The project took nearly two years of volunteer hours to research, research, and categorize over 130 entries from the Americas, focusing primarily on the United States. The content of the timeline covers twelve main categories: ally, accommodation, explorers, government, pioneers, recreation, migration, organizations, publishing, slavery, television and transportation, all with the aim of highlighting the pioneers of black travel as well as the main migratory routes and the evolution of leisure travel.
The name of Kellee Edwards, the very first black woman to host a show on the Travel Channel may remind you of something, but did you know Barbara Hillary, the first known black woman and the oldest person to reach the North and South Poles ? How about the Highland Beach Resort, which was started by abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ son, Charles Douglass, who purchased land in Highland after another resort in Maryland denied him entry, creating a mecca for black tourists in the late 1800s? Or the Henderson travel agency? In 1955, before the current wave of black travel leaders, Freddye Henderson and her husband, Jacob, opened Henderson Travel Service in Atlanta to help African Americans who wanted to travel abroad, paving the way for what we now call an international movement of Black Travelers. The timeline also includes major judicial, legislative, cultural, and historical events that inspired the Black Journey as a freedom mechanism. It’s not exclusive to the United States, and as such our plan is to continue to expand the timeline to add Black travelogues from every continent around the world.
As academics and industry practitioners, we would like to stress the importance of a clear position from the tourism industry. A stand to amplify black stories with the help of the timeline, even as the intense crackdown on the accurate telling of American history continues, whether through censorship, the burning of books and laws that perpetuate silence around the discussion of race in the world.
But the History Of Black Travel timeline isn’t just for industry players. This is for travelers of any racial or ethnic background. Our hope is that the timeline will be used both as an educational tool and a resource to start meaningful conversations among travelers as they make decisions about which destinations to visit, which businesses to support, and which activities to participate in. We want it to inspire visits and destination. websites that showcase black history, creating black heritage travel festivals, paid collaborations with black content creators to amplify black history within communities, and more.
Travel is meant to be transformative, and it’s up to us to be the catalyst for the change we want to see towards more diversity and inclusion in the industry – a Black History timeline entry at the times.
Stefanie Benjamin is an assistant professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management at the University of Tennessee. Alana Dillette is an assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management at San Diego State University. They are both co-directors of Tourism RESET, a multi-university and interdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that aims to identify, study and challenge patterns of social inequality in the tourism industry.