Photo Credit: pexels-pixabay
Gerri Major, The First Black Travel Influencer
The first Black travel influencer Geraldyn Hodges, better known as Gerri Major, was born in Chicago in 1894. She grew up in the city, raised in a well-to-do home. She attended college at The University of Chicago where she founded one of the school’s sororities. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in philosophy, she married and moved to Harlem. Major really came into herself in Harlem. She began a lifetime of work in publicity, journalism and social activism. Over the years, she worked with companies like Close Up, Jet and Ebony magazines, the catalyst to Major’s legacy.
Gerri Major’s lasting legacy was in her travel reporting and as the first Black travel influencer. She continually energized her friends and followers to travel internationally. She would cheer people toward traveling outside of their neighborhoods, cities and states: “to break through the remnants of Jim Crow–era restrictions and lay claim to the benefits and sheer pleasure of seeing other parts of the world.”
The Black travel movement started in the 1930s. Women such as Josephine Baker would use their talents to obtain visas to travel abroad. However, many Black traveling women would disguise their race by wearing face coverings, giving them the ability to pass as South Asian or Latin. Major’s main mode of transportation at first was steamships.
However, international travel was difficult for Black people. At the time because the segregation laws were in existence, White workers could often keep Black passengers from boarding for their destination altogether. Undeterred, Major traveled. Not only did she travel, she made the choice to write about the positives of travel. In fact, it was rare that she divulged the hardships of traveling internationally. “I wrote items that reinforced the breadth and scope of the Black traveler,” to let Black travelers know it was possible.
Continuing to travel until simply, “my body couldn’t keep up with my mind” she passed away in 1984. Though Major’s voice of encouragement lives on today through the Black travel movement.