Books: Non-Fiction

Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance

Book — Non-fiction. By Mia Bay. 2021. 400 pages.
From stagecoaches and trains to buses, cars, and planes, this book explores racial restrictions on transportation and resistance to the injustice.

Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity

From Plessy v. Ferguson to #DrivingWhileBlack, African Americans have fought for over a century to move freely around the United States.

Curious as to why so many cases contesting the doctrine of “separate but equal” involved trains and buses, Mia Bay went back to the sources with some basic questions: How did travel segregation begin? Why were so many of those who challenged it in court women? How did it move from one form of transport to another, and what was it like to be caught up in this web of contradictory rules?

From stagecoaches and trains to buses, cars, and planes, Traveling Black explores when, how, and why racial restrictions took shape and what it was like to live with them. Bay unearths troves of supporting evidence, rescuing forgotten stories of undaunted passengers who made it back home despite being insulted, stranded, re-routed, or ignored.

Black travelers never stopped challenging these humiliations and insisting on justice in the courts.

Traveling Black upends our understanding of Black resistance, documenting a sustained fight that falls outside the traditional boundaries of the civil rights movement. A masterpiece of scholarly and human insight, this book helps explain why the long, unfinished journey to racial equality so often takes place on the road. [Description from the publisher.]

Mia Bay is a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and also the author of To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells and The White Image in the Black Mind, and coauthor of Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents.

ISBN: 9780674979963 | Belknap Press

See a lecture by Dr. Mia Bay presented by the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County (Minnesota) and the Organization of American Historians, recorded on February 25, 2021.

Find selected stories in the online collection Transportation Protests: 1841 to 1992.

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