African Americans are travelling in numbers that are without precedent. Until the mid-1960s, it was very difficult for African Americans to travel. The reasons are understandable. Money was limited. Jobs were very demanding, particularly for unskilled workers.
Travelling to or within the southern United States was extremely difficult because of segregation in accommodations, public facilities, stores, or even purchasing gasoline. For many, it could also be life threatening. There are stories of the Ku Klux Klan threatening or lynching African Americans who dared to travel to or through their towns. Many African Americans are aware of the horrific lynching of young Emmett Till who travelled from Chicago to Mississippi to visit his cousins. Raised in Chicago, he was unfamiliar with the racial situation and was killed three days after his arrival to Money, Mississippi.
The African American community has experienced two large migrations—both involving flight from the oppression, limited opportunities, and violence of the southern states. In the 1940s, millions of African Americans moved to Chicago and New York. They started a great renaissance of culture, music, literary endeavors, and intellectual pursuits. Legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Ella Fitzgerald are a few of the African Americans who left the south and birthed an African American renaissance in Chicago and Harlem.
A second migration occurred in the 1960s when millions of African Americans moved west, particularly to California in search of better, higher paying, and more equitable job opportunities. They worked for the military and in shipyards as skilled workers. No longer limited to unskilled, back-breaking labor, African Americans obtained skilled jobs, managerial positions, teaching jobs, and respectable unskilled jobs.
The higher wages, increased education, better opportunities, and improved lifestyle in the northern and western parts of the United States encouraged African Americans to travel throughout the country and even abroad.
African Americans are now travelling in record numbers. And Hawaii is a favorite destination.
Many African Americans are feeling a connection with the native Hawaiian population who had also suffered severe oppression and violence from non-Hawaiians beginning with Captain Cook’s first visit to the island in 1778 and the enforced statehood of Hawaii in 1959. Many report that the travelling while Black phenomenon is less pervasive in Hawaii than in other American travel destinations.
Hawaii’s culture and history are great attractions. The affordability and equality of accommodations and services are also great attractions. Hawaii is one of the few places in the world where all the beaches maintain public access to all; they are not just for the ultra-rich. Four of the world’s five most beautiful islands in the world (according to Travel & Leisure Magazine) are located in Hawaii—and they are open to the public without restriction. Hawaii’s open door policy welcomes same-sex marital partners and few age restrictions on marriage. It is a state where individual rights are promoted.
As a travel destination, Hawaii is unparalleled. As African Americans (and the American population in general) obtain more disposable income, everyone has an eye on Hawaii. With its pristine beaches, beautiful climate, and spirit of Aloha, Hawaii has become the dream destination for the African American community. It’s not just for President Obama!