Derek H. Alderman, Ethan Bottone, Joshua Inwood : Title: Racialized Mobility and Tourism Justice in Jim Crow America: The Negro Motorist Green Book as Archive, Map, and Memorial
Derek H. Alderman, Ethan Bottone, Joshua Inwood
There is a lengthy history and a continuing legacy of tourism being a site for racialization within the United States (Benjamin and Dillette 2021). Controlling and curtailing the mobility of Black Americans was foundational to the development of a modern, White-dominated American travel industry. These injustices did not simply compromise the touristic access and experiences of BIPOC, but also enforced an uneven distribution of opportunity and citizenship and, in some instances, violently threatened one’s very life chances (Alderman 2018). Yet, Black communities have long used travel and mobility practices as tools of resistance and as part of the resourceful work of antiracism (Bay 2021). Not until the past several years have the racial politics of mobility and travel appeared consistently within tourism research. Our paper seeks to advance this emerging agenda by offering a critical re-reading of The Negro Motorist Green Book (published 1936-1967). Drawing from both primary and secondary sources, such a re-reading is about interpreting the contents, meanings, and after-lives of the Green Book through the lens of critical race theory, mobility studies, and Black Geographies.
The Green Book was a segregation-era travel guide developed by and for Black motorists to help them navigate and negotiate the harassment, humiliation, and possible bodily dangers of driving through and inhabiting Jim Crow-dominated US cities (Taylor 2020). Largely forgotten by the public until little over a decade ago, the Green Book is the center of growing (inter)national fascination and the subject of children’s books, documentaries, museum exhibits, scholarly papers, and public history projects. It has become as a touchstone for bringing attention to the fact that highways, cities, and towns were never fully open to Black drivers, and in fact, remain discriminatory today (Sorin 2020). We explore the larger value of the Green Bookto understanding the relationship between mobility, tourism, and justice. The famed motorist guide opens up but also limits certain ways of remembering Black resilience, agency, and counter-mobility strategies on American highways (Alderman et al. 2019).
Wedeploy the idea of the Green Book as “archive, map, and memorial” to identify the varying ways in which scholars, activists, and educators are using the history of how and where BIPOC traveled to address the legacies of living with, surviving, and driving against Jim Crow—not only in the past but in the present. As an archive, the Green Book is more than simply an historical listing of destinations that would welcome Black motorists. Rather, it is a text about and from Jim Crow that prompts deeper ethical and intellectual acknowledgement of the construction of an insurgent, antiracist knowledge of cities and roads in America and a uniquely Black sense of place and movement (Bottone 2020a). As a map, the travel guide led travelers on pathways to subvert Jim Crow and locate counter-public spaces that provided refugee to these travelers. The Green Book assists us in mapping the boundaries and geographies of segregation from the past and tracking what remains, if at all, of those Black businesses and neighborhoods in light of urban renewal, highway development, and dispossession (Bottone 2020b). Finally, as a memorial, the Green Book provides a means of recovering and remembering the everyday struggles of Black Americans during segregation and an evocative way of framing the contemporary obstacles still encountered in Driving/Traveling While Black along with sustaining Black-owned businesses (https://www.abctravelnetwork.com/) and Black travel collectives (Dillette and Benjamin 2021).
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Bottone, E. M. (2020a). The “Green Book” and a Black Sense of Movement: Black Mobilities and Motilities during the Jim Crow Era. Unpublished dissertation: University of Tennessee.
Bottone, E. (2020b). “Please Mention the Green Book:” The Negro Motorist Green Book as Critical GIS. In Historical Geography, GIScience and Textual Analysis (pp. 51-64). Springer, Cham.
Dillette, A., & Benjamin, S. (2021). The Black Travel Movement: A Catalyst for Social Change. Journal of Travel Research.
Sorin, G. (2020). Driving while black: African American travel and the road to civil rights. Liveright Publishing.
Taylor, C. (2020). Overground Railroad:
The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America. Abrams.