Freedom Beyond Confinement

BookFreedom Beyond Confinement

Freedom Beyond Confinement

Travel and Imagination in African-American Cultural History and Letters

Clemson University Press: African American Literature


December 1st, 2021





Freedom Beyond Confinement examines the cultural history of African American travel and the lasting influence of travel on the imagination particularly of writers of literary fiction and nonfiction. Using the paradox of freedom and confinement to frame the ways travel represented both opportunity and restriction for African Americans, the book details the intimate connection between travel and imagination from post Reconstruction (ca. 1877) to the present. Analysing a range of sources from the black press and periodicals to literary fiction and nonfiction, the book charts the development of critical representation of travel from the foundational press and periodicals which offered African Americans crucial information on travel precautions and possibilities (notably during the era of Jim Crow) to the woefully understudied literary fiction that would later provide some of the most compelling and lasting portrayals of the freedoms and constraints African Americans associated with travel. Travel experiences (often challenging and vexed) provided the raw data with which writers produced images and ideas meaningful as they learned to navigate, negotiate and even challenge racialized and gendered impediments to their mobility. In their writings African Americans worked to realize a vision and state of freedom informed by those often difficult experiences of mobility. In telling this story, the book hopes to center literary fiction in studies of travel where fiction has largely remained absent.

Author Information

Dr. Michael Ra-shon Hall is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Hall’s current research agenda examines the social and cultural phenomenon of travel and imagination in African-American arts, letters, and cultural history. His research and writing on travel and imagination have appeared in the academic journals Postcolonial Studies and the South Carolina Review as well as the edited volumes Travel and Imagination and Motion Pictures: Travel Ideals in Film.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Chapter 1: “The See-Saw of Race”: Langston Hughes,
Travel Report and a Modern Problematic Mirrored in the Black Press
Chapter 2: The Prominence of the Railroad in the
African-American Imagination: Mobile Men, Gendered Mobility and the Poetry of
Sterling A. Brown
Chapter 3: Variations on a Paradoxical Theme:
Gendered Mobility, Modern Travel and Imagination in Hurston’s Early Travels and
Creative Works
Chapter 4: Traversing Paradigms: Travel as Trope in
Octavia Butler’s Kindred
Chapter 5: Dramatizing the African-American
Experience of Travel in the Jim Crow South: The
Green Book: A Play in Two Acts