In Traveling Black, Mia Bay’s superb history of mobility and resistance, the question of literal movement becomes a way to understand the civil rights movement writ large ... Bay is an elegant storyteller, laying out the stark stakes at every turn while also showing how discrimination wasn’t just a matter of crushing predictability but often, and more insidiously, a haphazard jumble of risks ... Bay’s narration of all this is seamless, skillfully recounting the granular details while offering judicious glimpses of the bigger picture ... Her excellent book deepens our understanding of not just where we are but how we got here.
Why bother recounting the 'dangerous and degrading' conditions African Americans faced in evolving forms of travel since the pre-Civil War era? For University of Pennsylvania historian Bay, author of this important and disturbing book of historical reclamation, the need is apparent ... engrossing ... Over time, local customs and laws varied greatly, and Bay has captured nicely the nuances of travel across regions. She makes clear how segregated transportation worked and how important its eradication (with passage of federal legislation) has been to the freedom of Blacks ... Filled with vivid first-person accounts, Traveling Black is a superb history that captures a shameful aspect of the American story.
... disturbing and absorbing ... In this unique contribution to the literature of Black American history, Bay, a professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, successfully resurrects the story of 'a sustained fight for mobility that falls largely outside the organizational history of the civil rights movement.' In doing so, the author effectively demonstrates 'Black mobility as an enduring focal point of struggles over equality and difference' ... In a fascinating, sometimes infuriating narrative spun with engaging facts, stunning firsthand accounts from generations of Black travelers, and potent imagery, Bay elevates the importance of the Black right to mobility in the struggle for civil rights. Not simply a record of oppression, the book also illuminates the determined spirit that underpins the fight for Black equality across the country, exploring the methods that Black people have used to subvert a racist system that persists today ... A book that shocks, shames, and enlightens with critical scholarship on the Black pursuit of genuine liberty.