Mia Bay’s ‘Traveling Black,’ a Look at the Civil Rights Movement in Motion

Traveling Black cover

Mia Bay - Traveling Black. A Story of Race and Resistance (Harvard University Press, 2021)

In 1926, while traveling by train from Wilmington, N.C., to Richmond, Va., the Jamaican-American writer J.A. Rogers was forced to ride in the wooden Jim Crow car, which was typically placed toward the front, behind the engine and ahead of the steel cars reserved for white passengers.

“This, by the way, is the only instance in the South where the Black man goes first,” Rogers wrote in a wry aside. “Going first” in this case meant that the Jim Crow car served as a buffer for white passengers — from the soot and smoke that billowed out from the locomotive, or from the impact of a crash, when the wooden car’s rickety construction would be “crushed to tinder.”

In “Traveling Black,” Mia Bay’s superb history of mobility and resistance, the question of literal movement becomes a way to understand the civil rights movement writ large. “Most studies of segregation are centered largely on the South, and are more grounded in the history of particular communities than in the experiences of Black people in motion,” Bay writes. “Once one of the most resented forms of segregation, travel segregation is now one of the most forgotten.”

Read the entire essay at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/24/books/review-traveling-black-mia-bay.html?referringSource=articleShare



April 27 - Annenberg Seminar in History (Virtual)

Mia Bay, University of Pennsylvania, in Conversation with Heather Williams, University of Pennsylvania

Celebrating New Faculty Books: Mia Bay, author of Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (2021)

4:30pm | Virtual-Link will be posted closer to event date