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6 Important Tips for Black Travelers

WHETHER YOU’RE DISCOVERING YOUR ROOTS OR BRANCHING OUT TO OTHER DESTINATIONS, THESE TIPS WILL HELP YOU MAKE EVERY TRIP MORE MEMORABLE

Black Americans have been traveling ambitiously for generations. Trains, buses and cars helped Black families move up North and out West during the Great Migration that occurred between the 1910s and 1970, and those same vehicles took us back down South to visit family and friends. The Green Book, a guidebook for Black drivers during segregation, made road trips much safer and even offered information on Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Then as the Civil Rights Era progressed, air travel desegregated, making going overseas more possible.

Today, the Black travel market is robust. Black American travelers spent $109.4 billion on domestic leisure trips in 2019, according to a report by research firm MMGY Travel Intelligence.

man and woman in car singing and driving

Despite the resilience of Black travel, the community faces risks on the road. Black drivers are more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts, according to research from New York University and Stanford University published in 2020, and some of these stops have become violent if not fatal. Discrimination also happens during air travel and in certain destinations, prompting the NAACP to issue travel advisories.

Traveling while Black can be challenging, both in the US and abroad. Here are some helpful strategies for planning trips in a way that’s not just safe but also enjoyable, educational and deeply personal.

atlantic cityAtlantic City; Photo by creativefamily/stock.adobe.com

1. LEARN YOUR DESTINATION’S BACKSTORY
Tapping into a place’s Black history can turn a regular outing into something more memorable. Black resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; and Sag Harbor, New York—among others—were havens for Black families during the early to late 20th century. And, although the Green Book has been out of publication for decades, some hotels that were listed in it are still here and sharing their stories, like The Historic Magnolia House in North Carolina. Famous Black authors, artists and activists who traveled abroad during the 20th century continue to inspire people’s trips today, like Maya Angelou and Malcolm X in Accra, Ghana, or James Baldwin and Josephine Baker in Paris.

The ABC Travel Green BookThe ABC Travel Green Book; Photo courtesy of Martinique Lewis/abctravelgreenbook.com

2. USE THE MODERN-DAY ‘GREEN BOOK’
The Black Travel Movement—an online community that encourages Black people to travel far and wide—does what the Green Book once did: It keeps Black travelers informed, connected and safe. Leading the movement is Nomadness Travel Tribe, a 70,000-follower Facebook group that’s been around since 2011. It’s one of the best ways to get useful intel in real time and connect with people who will be on the ground wherever you’re heading. There’s also The ABC Travel Green Book by diversity consultant Martinique Lewis, an updated version of the original Green Book that’s international in scope and also available as an app for both iPhone and Android users. The app includes more than 100,000 more listings than the book, and it lets you create your own itinerary, leave written reviews, recommend businesses and more.

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3. FIND BLACK SERVICE PROVIDERS
Black hoteliers, restaurateurs and tour guides can tell local stories and acquaint you with the global African diaspora. A great resource for finding Black-owned businesses (BOBs) is the Black Elevation Map. The ABC Travel Green Book is full of BOBs, too.

Woman stands with summer dress by the sea in Axim GhanaAxim, Ghana; Photo by Gerhard Pettersson/stock.adobe.com

4. CONSIDER YOUR ROOTS
Heritage trips to Africa can be especially transformative. Many Black Americans struggle to trace our roots on paper, in part because during slavery and segregation, we were barred from voting, marrying, owning property and doing other things that carried official documentation. That’s where a DNA test can fill in some gaps and introduce us to places in Africa of meaning to us. There are companies that specialize in this type of trip-planning.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South KoreaBusan, South Korea; Photo by Sean Hsu/stock.adobe.com

5. OR BRANCH OUT FROM YOUR ROOTS
In addition to celebrating the African diaspora, the Black Travel Movement shows that Black people can travel anywhere and everywhere. Social media can help you find knowledgeable Black expats in places like South Korea or Turkey that see relatively few Black visitors.

6. SPEAK UP ABOUT DISCRIMINATION
Members of Nomadness routinely discuss their positive and negative experiences on planes, in hotels and on the ground in their destinations. It’s designed to be a safe space to talk about discrimination, and the more we talk openly, the better we can help each other. Many influencers also share their opinions on traveling while Black, as Emmy-winning media personality Oneika Raymond does on her blog and on Instagram.

The logistics of travel may have changed a lot over the last few generations, but for Black Americans, the tradition of travel is strong as ever. The digital connections between us will open up more destinations for years to come.