The Black travel movement has come a long way since the days of the Green Book. Now online communities and influencers are inspiring a new generation of global explorers.
By Kellee Edwards
Mario Rigby snorkeling in Zanzibar
Mario Rigby in Zanzibar.| Credit: Courtesy of Mario Rigby
Few people would relish being told where they can and can’t go. But that was the reality for African Americans living in the Jim Crow era.
From 1936 to 1966, The Negro Motorist Green Book and subsequent titles helped keep Black travelers and their families safe, with warnings about “sundown towns,” where people of color could face intimidation and violence after dark, and recommendations on the hotels, restaurants, and businesses that would welcome them.
Portrait of unidentified people on the wooden steps of the Idlewild Club House, Idlewild, Michigan, September 1938.
A snapshot taken in 1938 in Idlewild, Michigan, a resort town that welcomed African Americans and became known as the Black Eden.| Credit: The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers/Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images
Thankfully, the original Green Book is no longer a necessity for the African American community. Black travelers have become an economic force, spending $109 billion on vacations in 2019, according to a recent study by MMGY Global, a marketing agency. Yet we still have concerns. In response, a powerful new Black travel movement has emerged over the past decade — one centered on giving travelers of color the advice, inspiration, and sense of community we need to explore the world.
Black Travel Movement statistics
CREDIT: JENNA BRILLHART
One formative moment was the 2011 creation of the Nomadness Travel Tribe, an invitation-only Facebook group, by New Jersey–based Evita Robinson. “The Nomadness brand has always been synonymous with community, risk taking, trailblazing, and trying new things first,” Robinson says of the collective that started with just 100 members and is now more than 25,000 strong. Users swap tips and compile guides to destinations, with notes on accommodations, local experts, safety risks, and Black-owned businesses to support. One woman recently asked for tips on St. Lucia and, in particular, a recommendation for a trustworthy taxi service; another, just back from the island, replied with the phone number of the driver she’d used.
Evita Robinson sitting on the steps of a townhouse in Harlem, New York
Evita Robinson, seen in Harlem, New York.| Credit: Matador Network/Courtesy of Evita Robinson
As Nomadness has grown, prominent Black travelers have also begun encouraging others to see the world. My own travel journey started around 11 years ago, when I set out to become a TV host — a realm traditionally dominated by older white men. I knew I’d have to go above and beyond to be considered by any network, so I became a pilot, a scuba diver, and adventurer and picked up more than 100,000 social media followers. In 2016, I became the first Black woman to host a show on the Travel Channel, Mysterious Islands. And last year, I hosted the first 24 episodes of Let’s Go Together, the Travel + Leisure podcast that celebrates diversity and inclusion in travel.