19 April 2011

A guidebook for the forgotten tourists

This article from the Times is several months old, but new to me:
For almost three decades beginning in 1936, many African-American travelers relied on a booklet to help them decide where they could comfortably eat, sleep, buy gas, find a tailor or beauty parlor, shop on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls, or go out at night. In 1949, when the guide was 80 pages, there were five recommended hotels in Atlanta. In Cheyenne, Wyo., the Barbeque Inn was the place to stay.
The story also provides an interesting example of guidebook as snapshot of a particular historic and cultural moment--because they are, in a sense, a how-to manual for everyday life, they can provide all kinds of unvarnished insights into the cultural norms of an era ... for better or for worse. In this case, the Times headline gets at the underlying story: "The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All." Read the whole article here.

On a related note, one interesting thing I learned in my book research was that, even through the 1950s and 1960s, there was a strong tradition of middle class African-American tourists traveling to Europe not just to see the sites but because they knew they would encounter less racism, and be able to travel more freely, across the Atlantic. For more on that ... you'll just have to wait a year for the book (and then turn to the Vienna chapter). Or check out Christopher Endy's Cold War Holidays.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You know the drill: keep it civil and on-topic, don't spam, don't run with scissors, floss. For posts older than three weeks, comments will be moderated before publication.