Tamara J. WalkerAug 4, 2023
Beyond the Shores
A History of African Americans Abroad
Part historical exploration, part travel memoir, Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad (Crown, 2023) reveals poignant histories of a diverse group of African Americans who have left the United States over the course of the past century. Together, the interwoven stories highlight African Americans’ complicated relationship to the United States and the world at large. Beyond the Shores is not just about where African Americans stayed or where they ate when they traveled but also about why they left in the first place and how they were treated once they reached their destinations.
Drawing on years of research, Dr. Tamara J. Walker chronicles their experiences in atmospheric detail, taking readers from well-known capital cities to more unusual destinations like Yangiyul, Uzbekistan, and Kabondo, Kenya. She follows Florence Mills, the would-be Josephine Baker of her day, in Paris, and Richard Wright, the author turned actor and filmmaker, in Buenos Aires. She relays tender stories of adventurous travelers, including a group of gifted Black crop scientists in the 1930s, a housewife searching for purpose in the 1950s, a Peace Corps volunteer discovering his identity in the 1970s, and her own grandfather, who, after losing his eye fighting in World War II and returning to a country that showed no signs of honoring his sacrifice, set out with his wife and children on a circuitous journey that sent them back and forth across the Atlantic. Tying these tales together is Walker’s personal account of her family’s, and her own, experiences abroad—in France, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, and beyond. By sharing the accounts of those who escaped the racism of the United States to try their hands at life abroad, Beyond the Shores shines a light on the meaning of home and the search for a better life.
Tamara J. Walker is a historian and associate professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College of Columbia University, where her research and teaching focus on the history of slavery and freedom in Latin America. Her first book, Exquisite Slaves: Race, Clothing, and Status in Colonial Lima, won the Harriet Tubman Prize awarded by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Reighan Gillam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College. Her research examines the ways in which Afro-Brazilian media producers foment anti-racist visual politics through their image creation. She is the author of Visualizing Black Lives: Ownership and Control in Afro-Brazilian Media (University of Illinois Press).