Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2018
By: Gloria & Solomon Herbert

Where Our Travels Take Us (Following the NEW Green Book)


On Monday, January 8, 2018, H.R. 1242, the "400 Years of African-American History Commission Act," which establishes a group of select individuals to oversee and coordinate events and activities commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of 20 enslaved Africans brought with European settlers to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, was officially signed into law.

Looking back on the history of people of African descent in this country it is certainly clear that we are not strangers to travel.

Many historians, including acclaimed professor and documentary filmmaker Dr. Henry Louis Gates, remind us that the first recorded history of Africans in this country actually began in 1565 over 464 years ago. Juan Garrido, the first known African to set foot on what would become America, was a free West African conquistador who traveled with famed explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, on a Spanish expedition that established America's First and oldest European settlement in St. Augustine, FL.

Today visitors to the state of Florida would find two high ranking African-American tourism officials, Ken Lawson, President/CEO of Visit Florida and Connie Kinnard, Vice President Multicultural Tourism for Greater Miami CVB, leading the way to welcome all travelers to enjoy the diverse historic and cultural offerings of America's Sunshine state.


Ken Lawson               Connie Kinnard

Although exact totals are not known, it is estimated that during the 1600's through the 1800's, of the twelve million enslaved people brought over 5,000 miles from Africa to the Americas during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, approximately 388,000 were imported into the U.S.

From literally traveling across the oceans as cargo in the holds of American merchant ships, to being first class passengers aboard the world's luxury cruise liners, our experiences have brought us from SLAVE SHIPS to CRUISE SHIPS.  In fact today an African-American, Arnold Donald, serves as President and CEO of Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest Cruise company in the world.

Arnold Donnald

Throughout 2019 BM&T magazine will be running a series of articles chronicling many places where African Americans have traveled since their arrival on U.S. soil over 400 years ago.  Showcasing many of the destinations featured in the upcoming NEW Green Book mobile app and digital directory, this series will be accompanied by the launching of corresponding PODCAST programs, expanding on African-American travelers' historical experiences, as well as showcasing current patterns and developing trends  This cover story, Continuing the 400 Year Journey…Where OUR Travels Take Us, Following The NEW Green Book, is a prelude to that series and sets the tone for subsequent features and the conversation that will be heard on future podcasts.

According to prominent national economic monitors, after Health Care,  and possibly Technology, Travel & Tourism represents the 2nd or 3rd largest revenue generating and employment opportunity industry in the US. Travel means tremendous business, generating $2.4 trillion in economic output and supporting 15.6 million American jobs across all U.S. industries

Worldwide, Travel/Tourism is the largest revenue generating and employment opportunity Industry. In their 2018 African American Travel Study, Mandela Research reports that the overall ANNUAL economic Impact of African-American LEISURE Travelers is $63 Billion. It is estimated that an additional $9+ billion is spent by this market for business travel, including meetings, conferences and conventions.

Let's take a moment to see where we've been and another moment to project forward to where we're going and the enormous potential our travel holds for greater expansion, enrichment and empowerment for people of color around the world. 

THE 1600 & 1700s……. ARRIVAL - SURVIVAL

Historians tell us that for many thousands of years Africans travel within and beyond the continent of Africa. However the Major connection to Africans in the Americas began in the 1600s with those 20 Africans brought to Old Point Comfort, the present-day site of FORT MONROE in Hampton, Virginia. This Historic site, is a part of the National Parks Service, and is one of the many National Park locations that help to tell the story of Africans in this country. That story takes on new meaning with today's presence of top industry executives such as Rita McClenney, President/CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and Patricia Washington, President/CEO of Visit Alexandria!. Travel for African-Americans in Virginia, and everywhere, has come a LONG way from where we started those many years ago.

  Rita McClenney        Patricia Washington

During the first 200 years of slave importation travel for Africans in this foreign land was totally non-voluntary--we went where we were sent or where we were taken. Generally without our family members and in fact, literally, with only the clothes on our backs. The lucrative slave trade brought a steady work force of Africans to U.S. soil, mainly to the Southern region of the country. Because so many African-Americans can trace their family roots to those states, they are the destinations that remain high among the ones most visited by Black travelers.

In states such as Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana, recognized as having the largest populations of enslaved Africans, time has brought extraordinarily changes to the faces that represent TRAVEL. From the anguished, brutalized people of color having absolutely no control over their lives or destiny, we now see faces such as those of Rickey Thigpen, president and CEO of Visit Jackson, Bennish Brown, president and CEO of the Augusta CVB, Shanitra Finley, executive director of Visit Yazoo, Timothy P. Bush, president and CEO of Louisiana's Cajun Bayou, Essence H. Banks, executive director of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, and Monica Smith, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society. Having these capable individuals in their positions of leadership serves to demonstrate the powerful role of Travel in implementing possibilities for positive change in our nation.

Rickey Thigpen                 Timothy Bush               Bennish Brown


Shanitra Finley              Monica Smith                   Essence H. Banks


During the early 1800s our extraordinarily brave and daring enslaved ancestors risked their lives to venture on treacherous, and extremely dangerous journeys to Freedom following what was known as the Underground Railroad. They walked many hundreds of miles on uncharted paths that lead them to destinations known as "Free States," places such as Pennsylvania, Ohio or New Jersey

            Often these escaping slaves were lead by notorious "fugitives" such as Harriet Tubman, who could easily be considered one of the first and best-known African-American tour operators.

Today visitors to those states will find people of color, who may or may not be related to those amazing ancestral travelers, blazing new trails of opportunity in the field of Travel & Tourism. Outstanding industry leaders such as Julie Coker, president and CEO of the Philadelphia CVB, and Karin Aaron president and CEO of the Greater Newark CVB.

     Karin Aaron           Julie Coker-Graham

The mid 1800s found this country in the ravages of what by some authorities, is considered as the deadliest war engaged in by mankind to that point in history. According to renowned Civil War researcher, Dr. Frank Smith, this bloody conflict that often pitted brothers against each other, saw more than 200,000 soldiers of African descent enlist and fight to help secure freedom for their people in this land.

The story of their service and sacrifice is told at THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL in Washington DC. It is the only national memorial to honor the contributions of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and sailors during the Civil War. Our nation's capital, Washington DC is a city partial designed by Benjamin Banneker, an African-American surveyor. The White House, traditionally the official residence of America's sitting president, built by slave laborers is located there. Now that city's official Tourism office, Destination DC is headed by Elliot Ferguson.

Elliot Ferguson

After the Civil War African-American travel was highly focused on RE UNITING. This time period saw massive numbers of former slaves seeking to find loved ones from whom they had been separated. For many this was a tedious and often impossible process. However, it was  the beginning of a strong trend that still exists today in the African-American travel sector: having a Family Reunion. Today FAMILY REUNIONS are a multi billion dollar component of the Travel Industry.

Capitalizing on the growth of this sector of the market are popular destinations for African-American Family Reunions such as, Baltimore, Maryland, where the city's Tourism Office, Visit Baltimore is headed by Al Hutchison, a dynamic Travel professional, and Minneapolis, Minnesota with Industry Icon, Melvin Tennant, serving as president/ CEO of Meet Minneapolis.


Melvin Tennant          Al Hutchinson


In the early part of the twentieth century the Southern United States was ruled by harsh "Jim Crow" laws. During this period, the headlines in Black Newspapers across the country reported countless incidents of lynchings and mob violence targeting African-Americans, prompting a reported 6,000,000 Black Americans to venture from their desolate homes in the rural South to relocate to less hostile environments in Midwestern, Northern and even far Western states. In addition to any physical belongings that they could take with them, they brought a rich culture, unique music, a tradition of flavorful food and a commitment for being, doing and having BETTER, that is thoroughly woven  into the landscape in every part of this nation.

These years introduced mass production of the AUTOMOBILE allowing Americans to travel with greater ease and flexibility than ever before. But for African-American motor travelers it brought a whole new set of dangers. Their very lives were in fact at risk when they ventured outside of their immediate home environment. Published Travel Guides such as the historic GREEN BOOK, a comprehensive directory listing safe places where African-American travelers could find a room to sleep, food to eat, even service stations to get gasoline or use public restroom facilities, allowed Black Travelers to venture on road trips across the country.

While the Original Green Book was primarily seen as a life-saving guide to provide Black travelers with resources needed to guarantee their safety and comfort, it was actually MUCH more than that. According to Calvin Ramsey, renowned GREEN BOOK historian, they were "books of Commerce."  In addition to listings for lodging, food and gasoline, these annual guides, featured Black-owned businesses and services from hair salons to dentist offices.

These little green books were treasures for African-American economic growth, creating a unique system for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and providing streams of revenue into African-American communities throughout the country.

Calvin Ramsey

African-Americans continued to leave the South in droves, seeking better lives and promise for future generations. Their travels took them to destinations that were considered to be more progressive. Especially appealing were cities such as Detroit, Michigan, that now under the leadership of Metro Detroit CVB president and CEO, Larry Alexander remains a top draw for African-American travelers.

Larry Alexander

Hopes were high for Blacks settling in the Pacific Region in places like Los Angeles and Lancaster, California, which today both have Tourism Divisions headed by well respected people of color; seasoned industry giant, Ernie Wooden and promising, bright newcomer, Angela Clayborne, respectively.


Ernest Wooden               Angela Clayborne


As the year 2000 ushered in the 21st century and great aspirations for people around the world, the African-American market was identified by the USTA (United States Travel Association), formerly the TIA (Travel Industry of America) as the number ONE fastest growing segment in the travel industry.

Even after September 11th of that year, African-Americans were reported to have continued traveling domestically even though other populations of the market were not.

Without question, travel has changed across the board for everyone. It seems we constantly learn about  some unpleasant travel experience or repeated incidents of "airport hassles"  In spite of the fact that Black travelers consistently report concerns about racial profiling, particularly in various parts of the U.S., the growth in numbers and frequency of travel among African-Americans continues to increase at unprecedented rates.

Historically, Black people have tended to travel in groups for camaraderie and to some extent for protection. Now with the increased popularity of Black, travel clubs and networks, African-American 'baby boomers', having more time and money, are exploring the world in a way they were never able to before. For Millennials of color, Travel is being considered somewhat of a 'rite of passage'. These young travelers are eagerly sharing highlights of their journeys to exotic places around the world, through every conceivable social media platform.

As we commemorate 400+ years of African-American history in this country, clearly a common thread that is emerging among Black travelers is the recognition of the importance of making their Travel Dollars COUNT. While "Traveling opens eyes, warms hearts and frees minds", as long time Travel industry consultant, Roy Jay emphatically suggests  "It is also about Dollar$ & $ense."

More and more Travelers of Color are directing their business to those companies that embrace and support DIVERSITY and INCLUSION in the Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry. They are choosing those destinations, venues, businesses and attractions that have demonstrated their appreciation of the African-American market through their commitment to diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, promotions and advertising in Black-Owned media, sponsorships, educational investment and community involvement.

In 2019 BM&T will be introducing The NEW GREEN BOOK,  (NGB) a mobile app and digital directory. It will be a valuable travel tool for guiding Black travelers to go where they are; Invited, Welcomed and Valued.  Of equal importance, it will help ensure that the $72+ billion  dollars African-Americans spend annually on travel will help to economically empower those "who look like us". In much the same way as did the Historic Green Book, the NGB will serve to bring increased revenue from Travel dollars into African-American Communities world-wide.

Certainly in today's world African-Americans will continue to travel to any and every part of the globe, stay in the finest hotels, take first class cruises, and enjoy the absolute best that travel has to offer.  They will do this while consciously making a difference in the lives of people of color.  African-Americans will further expand their presence at every level in the $2.4 trillion Travel Industry.

Understanding the difference between servitude and SERVICE, larger numbers of people of color will fill positions and cultivate careers from destination management executives, airline pilots, technicians, mechanics, hotel owners, operators and developers as well as frontline personnel in every aspect of this burgeoning arena. And, as we have done for over 25 years, Black Meetings & Tourism will provide support, enlightenment  and encouragement as this $72+ billion market segment  CONTINUES  THE JOURNEY.

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