Destinations, Landmarks and Trails

Dispatches, diaries, memoirs, and letters by African-American travelers in search of home, justice, and adventure-from the Wild West to Australia.​

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Black Nature is the first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which African American poets have participated. Black poets have a long tradition of incorporating treatments of the natural world into their work, but it is often read as political, historical, or protest poetry―anything but nature poetry. This is particularly true when the definition of what constitutes nature writing is limited to work about the pastoral or the wild. Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics. 

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Drawing on theories of sublimity, trauma, and ecocriticism, this book examines how the often sharp division between European American and African American experiences of the natural world developed in American culture and history, and how those natural experiences, in turn, shaped the construction of race.​

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In Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the reach of ecocriticism by analyzing the ecological experiences, conceptions, and desires seen in African American writing. Blacks were ecological agents before the emergence of American nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their perspectives are critical to understanding the full scope of ecological thought. Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the antebellum era to the twenty-first century, considering WPA slave narratives, neo–slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary films, by such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez.​

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​In Rooted in the Earth, environmental historian Dianne D. Glave overturns the stereotype that a meaningful attachment to nature and the outdoors is contrary to the black experience. In tracing the history of African Americans' relationship with the environment, emphasizing the unique preservation-conservation aspect of black environmentalism, and using her storytelling skills to re-create black naturalists of the past, Glave reclaims the African American heritage of the land. This book is a groundbreaking, important first step toward getting back into nature, not only for personal growth but for the future of the planet.

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 In this first single-authored book to link African American and environmental studies, Smith uncovers a rich tradition stretching from the abolition movement through the Harlem Renaissance, demonstrating that black Americans have been far from indifferent to environmental concerns. Beginning with environmental critiques of slave agriculture in the early nineteenth century and evolving through critical engagements with scientific racism, artistic primitivism, pragmatism, and twentieth-century urban reform, Smith highlights the continuity of twentieth-century black politics with earlier efforts by slaves and freedmen to possess the land. 

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Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.

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“To Love the Wind and the Rain” is a groundbreaking and vivid analysis of the relationship between African Americans and the environment in U.S. history. It focuses on three major themes: African Americans in the rural environment, African Americans in the urban and suburban environments, and African Americans and the notion of environmental justice.  Meticulously researched, the essays cover subjects including slavery, hunting, gardening, religion, the turpentine industry, outdoor recreation, women, and politics. “To Love the Wind and the Rain” will serve as an excellent foundation for future studies in African American environmental history.​

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In this provocative and powerful mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time, Savoy explores how the country's still unfolding history, and ideas of race,” have marked her and the land. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from Indian Territory” and the U.S.-Mexico Border to the U.S. capital,Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past

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Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.​

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The nation's wild places-from national and state parks to national forests, preserves, and wilderness areas-belong to all Americans. But not all of us use these resources equally. Minority populations are much less likely to seek recreation, adventure, and solace in our wilderness spaces. It's a difference that African American author James Mills addresses in his new book, The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors. Bridging the so-called adventure gap requires role models who can inspire the uninitiated to experience and enjoy wild places. Once new visitors are there, a love affair often follows. ​

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A rich collection of fifty-two stories covering the globe. Sister-to-sister advice on everything from destination selection, to traveling solo, to saving money on airfare. Exploration and discussion of issues of particular concern to black women; dealing with racism, overcoming fears, claiming entitlement, etc. The book also includes a planning guide and a resource.​

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​In this book, Gary Totten examines the global travel narratives of a diverse set of African American writers, including Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, Matthew Henson, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Zora Neale Hurston. While these writers deal with issues of identity in relation to a reimagined sense of self―in a way that we might expect to find in travel narratives―they also push against the constraints and conventions of the genre, reconsidering discourses of tourism, ethnography, and exploration.

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Attracted to remote lands by his interest in the postcolonial struggle, Richard Wright (1908-1960) became one of the few African Americans of his time to engage in travel writing. He went to emerging nations not as a sightseer but as a student of their cultures, learning the politics and the processes of social transformation...he traveled to emerging nations his encounters produced four travel narratives-Black Power (1953), The Color Curtain (1956), Pagan Spain (1956), and White Man, Listen! (1957). 

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​Ralph Bunche, who received theRalph Bunche, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, traveled to South Africa for three months in 1937. His notes, which have been skillfully compiled and annotated by historian Robert R. Edgar, provide unique insights on a segregated society. Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, traveled to South Africa for three months in 1937. His notes, which have been skillfully compiled and annotated by historian Robert R. Edgar, provide unique insights on a segregated society.

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​In 1962 the poet, musician, and performer Maya Angelou claimed another piece of her identity by moving to Ghana, joining a community of "Revolutionist Returnees" inspired by the promise of pan-Africanism. All God's Children Need Walking Shoes is her lyrical and acutely perceptive exploration of what it means to be an African American on the mother continent, where color no longer matters but where American-ness keeps asserting itself in ways both puzzling and heartbreaking.

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Based on acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston's personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica—where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer during her visits in the 1930s—Tell My Horseis a fascinating firsthand account of the mysteries of Voodoo. An invaluable resource and remarkable guide to Voodoo practices, rituals, and beliefs, it is a travelogue into a dark, mystical world that offers a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies, customs, and superstitions.

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Since the publication of his first book, Mississippi Solo, Eddy L. Harris has been praised for his travel writing. In this exciting reissue of his classic travelogue, readers will come to treasure the rich insightful prose that is as textured as the Mississippi River itself. They will be taken by the hand by an adventurer whose lifelong dream is to canoe the length of this mighty river, from Minnesota to New Orleans. The trip's dangers were legion for a Black man traveling alone, paddling from "where there ain't no black folks to where they still don't like us much." Barge waives loom large, wild dogs roam the wooded shores, and, in the Arkansas dusk, two shotgun-toting bigots nearly bring the author's dream to a bloody...​

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The author recounts his motorcycle journey through the South, discusses what it means to be Black, and describes his search for traces of his own great-great grandfather.​

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In 1997 Gary Younge explored the American South by retracing the route of the original Freedom Riders of the 1960s. His road trip was a remarkable socio-cultural adventure for an outsider. He was British, journalistically curious, and black. As he traveled by Greyhound bus through the former Confederate states, he experienced an awakening. He felt culturally tied to this strange yet familiar place. Though a Briton by birth and the child of emigrants from Barbados, he felt culturally alien in his native land. In Dixie, however, he met African Americans whose racial distinctiveness was similar to his own.

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The black American author of Mississippi Solo chronicles his personal odyssey through Africa, detailing the people and diverse landscapes of the continent and reflecting on his feelings of alienation from the land of his ancestors.​

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In the 1860s, as America waged civil war, several thousand African Americans sought greater freedom by emigrating to the fledgling nation of Liberia. While some argued that the new black republic represented disposal rather than emancipation, a few intrepid men set out to explore their African home. African-American Exploration in West Africa collects the travel diaries of James L. Sims, George L. Seymour, and Benjamin J. K. Anderson, who explored the territory that is now Liberia and Guinea between 1858 and 1874. These remarkable diaries reveal the wealth and beauty of Africa in striking descriptions of its geography, people, flora, and fauna.

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As a young man Runoko Rashidi was inspired by the traveling journalist and historian J. A. Rogers. Rogers' was undefeatable, rescuing and uncovering Black history from obscure places around the world and many of Europe's historically ruling families...Rashidi found inspiration in Roger s life and work and pledged to travel the world much like Rogers had done to follow in his footsteps and witness firsthand the presence of Africa around the world. This book documents Rashidi's inspired Global Journeys in Search of the African Presence.

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From Barbados to Bhutan, from Grenada to Guatemala, from Africa to Australia, Maureen Stone has been there, walking, observing, and listening. From the foothills of the Himalayas to the Old Man of Coniston, she tells of personal encounters and discusses the issues and problems of today. In letters to her "sisters around the world" and through conversations with her brothers, her travels and experiences are recounted.

 

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A Fly Girl gives insight to the highs and lows in the world of a former BA cabin crew, in an intriguing travel writing memoir. In the global landscape the memoirist meticulously documents personal adventures, social structures and political history throughout her daring and exciting expeditions. Conveying tales from the America's, Arabia, Asia to Africa the narrative is fueled with race, gender and sexuality as the author walks through hip hop history and experiences terrain vibrations and eruptions. The author exposes her relation to addictions, alcohol, air rage and the life of the jet set, highlighting history of British Airways at forty.​

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After accepting her Dutch boyfriend's invitation to move from sultry New Orleans, Carolyn finds herself in the land of windmills, wooden shoes and endless gray skies. As she moves away from the remnants of her tragic childhood and America's obsession with race, she is plunged into the depths of homesickness, depression and a declaration of war on her own hair. She travels through motherhood and a career change, and her determination is put to the test. On the way to self-discovery, she ends up finding love, soul sisters and the secret to avoiding bad hair days.​

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​A brilliant illustration of the ways in which race is an artificial construct that like beauty is often a matter of perspective The Wall Street Journal Frank and expansive Each impressionistic deeply personal vignette is a building block detailing Raboteau s far flung search for home a promised land that s as brick and mortar tangible as it is spiritually confirming.

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Magazine writer and editor Lori Tharps was born and raised in the comfortable but mostly White suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was often the only person of color in her school and neighborhood. At an early age, Lori decided that her destiny would be discovered in Spain. She didn't know anyone from Spain, had never visited the country, and hardly spoke the language. Still, she never faltered in her plans to escape to the Iberian Peninsula. Arriving in the country as an optimistic college student, however, Lori soon discovers Spain's particular attitude toward Blackness. 

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​Saro-Wiwa travels from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the decrepit kitsch of the Transwonderland Amusement Park. She explores Nigerian Christianity, delves into the country’s history of slavery, examines the corrupting effect of oil, and ponders the huge success of Nollywood. She finds the country as exasperating as ever, and frequently despairs at the corruption and inefficiency she encounters. But she also discovers that it is far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, with its captivating thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments.

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​Reluctantly leaving behind Pop Tarts and pop culture to battle flying rats, hissing cobras, forest fires, and decomposing corpses, Faith Adiele shows readers in this personal narrative, with accompanying journal entries, that the path to faith is full of conflicts for even the most devout. Residing in a forest temple, she endured nineteen-hour daily meditations, living on a single daily meal, and days without speaking. Internally Adiele battled against loneliness, fear, hunger, sexual desire, resistance to the Buddhist worldview, and her own rebellious Western ego. Adiele demystifies Eastern philosophy and demonstrates the value of developing any practice―Buddhist or not.

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Black Travel Books to Add to Your Must Read List 

 

Nature, Environment, Adventure, Narratives, Spiritual Journeys

Second in a three-part series, NoirGuides has curated a listing of 30 African American travel books focused on important Nature, Environment, Adventure, Narratives, Spiritual Journeys. Written primarily by Black authors, our selection is based on readings which offer historic context essential to understanding the rich legacy and contributions of African Americans. For travel planning as well as interested readers. 

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