Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Derek H. Alderman

Committee Members

Stefanie Benjamin, Solange Munoz, James Williams A.


Mobility is one of the most ubiquitous aspects of daily life around the globe, and is facilitated by various objects and spaces. The concept of motility, or the factors that contribute to the potential for movement, represents a holistic lens through which mobility can be examined. In the United States, black Americans have a particularly laborious relationship with mobility, as their movements have been regulated and constrained since the first enslaved Africans were brought to the country. Yet, African-Americans have struggled and worked to construct and perform their own movements in the face of a white supremacist society. This dissertation, therefore, seeks to investigate the relationship black Americans have with mobility by exploring examples of motility constructed during the Jim Crow era, a period of intense structural racism. Specifically, I use the Green Book, an African-American travel guide, to examine how black mobility and motility were enacted to create resistance and resilience to white supremacy. The first chapter seeks to develop a new framework for understanding black mobilities and motilities, termed a “black sense of movement.” Through a discourse analysis of the advertisements and essays published in various editions of the Green Book, I demonstrate how a “black sense of movement” is embodied in the guidebook and can better capture dialectical constructions of black geographies. The second chapter explores the intersection of black geographies and critical GIS through the spatial data collected within the pages of the Green Book. By (re)mapping spaces of black travel, I demonstrate how the Green Book served as a “counter map” that facilitated black travel within the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. The final chapter of this dissertation looks at a certain type of business listed in the Green Book, tourist homes, to understand how these private spaces rented to travelers aided in enabling black mobility and motility. I specifically employ the metaphor of hospitality as resistance to understand how iii welcoming black travelers into private homes subverted white supremacy. Overall, this dissertation provides a critical intervention in black geographic literature by centering the role of movement and developing a framework for understanding black mobilities.

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