Black leisure travel during the Jim Crow era is an overlooked and under-researched topic. When researchers examine African American travelers during this time period, they tend to view their mobility through the lens of politics or as a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. This is an incredibly limited view of Black mobility, and viewing African American travelers as solely political travelers means that researchers miss out on understanding their full experiences. Researchers render them heroes or martyrs rather than families and individuals, and they strip them of their joy.
"Wherever We Please, and Without Embarrassment”: Black Leisure Travel During the Jim Crow Era
examines Black leisure travel during the Jim Crow era, with a specific focus on Victor Hugo Green's The Negro Traveler's Green Book. The Green Book treated black travelers as travelers, contributing to the normalization and enjoyability of travel. This thesis emphasizes leisure over politics, as much of the research surrounding this era fails to do so. The major sources used in writing this thesis include archived versions of The Negro Motorist's Green Book from 1937 to 1964, archived editions of the NAACP's magazine The Crisis, archived issues of The Defender, and a number of secondary sources on the automobile, sundown towns, the Great Migration, leisure, segregation, and mobility.
I stumbled across The Negro Motorist Green Book my freshman year. Junot Diaz had shared an article about the New York Public Library's acquisition of the nearly-complete run of the guidebook. I knew right then that if I ever wrote a thesis, that would be my focus.As my junior year came to a close, Professor Masur asked me if I had any subject in mind for an honors thesis. I immediately remembered The Green Book. Holding a facsimile of the guidebook in my hands this year, I finally realized that this was more than a year-long writing project. The book that I held in my hands had literally saved lives, and I wanted to do it justice in my writing. For the better part of a year, I poured over The Crisis, The Chicago Defender, The Green Book itself, and sources concerning black leisure travel, segregation, the automobile, and sundown towns. I am so incredibly proud of what I've done this year.