It's Time for a Timeline of the History of Black TourismRoundup
tags: racism, travel, African American history, tourism
Stefanie Benjamin is 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 seeks to identify, study, and challenge patterns of social inequity in the tourism industry.
Black history is often told through the lens of enslavement and segregation, focusing on centuries of struggle as opposed to centering the progress and positive strides Black people continue to make in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, travel history is no different: Textbooks and heritage sites often omit Black historical narratives and travel pioneers, instead highlighting traditionally romanticized and comfortable versions of predominantly white, male, Eurocentric history.
Following another round of publicized brutality of Black people during the summer of 2020, Black travel leaders shared loudly that a spotlight on systemic racism within the tourism industry was long overdue. This global reckoning with race led to big questions, like why the travel industry needs to address its own (lack of) diversity and how the history of Black travel has historically been left out of the conversation. Almost two years later, the recent pushback against anti-racist teaching in U.S. public schools has many educators and parents concerned with how government-mandated censorship continues to whitewash and romanticize American history lesson plans. These concerns are echoed within the tourism industry with tourist sites, destinations, and museums questioning their role in how the telling of marginalized narratives, specifically Black history, should be represented.
Recognizing these stark inequities, the Black Travel Alliance, a non-profit created to encourage, educate, and equip Black travel professionals, teamed up with the organization we co-direct, Tourism RESET, an interdisciplinary research and outreach initiative that seeks to identify, study, and challenge patterns of social inequity 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 now is the time to teach the public about how the African Diaspora traveled to every inch of the earth and how they progressively made—and are making—their mark on the travel industry, from centuries past to the present day.
Thus, the ‘History Of Black Travel’ timeline was born.