Jerry Megazin from Jet Magazine, #1 Travel Influencer

Preparing for an international trip was a familiar routine for Jerry Major—she had crossed the Atlantic so many times that her friends and colleagues used to call her, but on a specific spring day in 1953, she was especially in her element. She wore a long-sleeved black dress, white gloves, and a black pillbox hat as she walked to Gate 9 at New York International Airport. The major was heading to London to cover the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II Jet The magazine where I worked as the editor of the association. The agent gave her a ticket, and at that moment one of Major’s companions took a picture. That picture was shown a few weeks later in JetShe will become a kind of calling card for Major in her future adventures and a beacon to a growing fan base of intrepid African-American travelers that Major has become a source of inspiration for.

The coronation was a remarkable task for journalists lucky enough to receive press credentials from the British government. Back then, as now, the world was obsessed with royal news. But for Major, it was an opportunity to focus on the black travelers who attended the event. She recalls in her book: “Twenty West African chiefs and tribal officials watched the festivities.” black society. The Prince of Benin and his companion from the Gold Coast stopped London traffic in their original eye-catching costume, with umbrellas that “created a truly cosmopolitan vibe” at the Queen’s Garden Party.

Major, top right, on her way to London in 1953 to cover Queen Elizabeth II’s inauguration Jet A magazine where I wrote about society and travel.

Ebony Magazine

The major will pay special attention to the entry and exit of notable African Americans. “Two members of Harlem’s Smart Bridgettes, Ida May King and Alberta Osborne, have arrived in London via SS Verdam this weekend to crown and tour France and Italy.” Along with their tracks I labeled their social calendars. “Dr. Gertrude Curtis Thompson of Los Angeles came from Paris the day after the coronation. She said she hated crowds. Her host was Adelaide Hall, who was appearing at the Savile Theater in love from jodi. The doctor was loaded with high-end skin products that she had picked up in Italy…”

Born in Chicago in 1894, Geraldine Hodges was raised by an aunt and uncle after her mother died in childbirth. I excelled in school, and eventually went to the University of Chicago, where I got a degree in philosophy. She held a series of jobs after her graduation – an elementary school teacher, a nurse for the Red Cross during World War I – and then moved with her first husband, Dr. Benga Desmond, to Harlem, where she began her career side-by-side in advertising, journalism and social activism.

Friends say Major thrived in Harlem, immersed in the arts and the city’s vibrant social scene. She and Dismond divorced but remained good friends. In 1946 she married John Major, a prominent businessman from Atlantic City. They exchanged vows in Buenos Aires – an alluring destination for American travelers at the time. It has become a household name for her for a long time Jet Column of the “Black Jerry Major Society” and its work in Ebony (Where she was the editor of the staff), Amsterdam newsand other publications.

But her role as a travel reporter and occasional tour leader may be her most important legacy. Throughout her adult life, Major has encouraged her friends and readers to undertake international travel not only as a way to venture outside their neighborhoods but also to break through the remnants of the restrictions of the Jim Crow era and claim the benefits and sheer pleasure of seeing other parts of the world. She was one of the first voices in what would become a larger black travel movement that gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s and continues today as a number of prominent black travel influencers.

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Jerry Major, photographed July 4, 1951.

Carl van Vechten

Major wrote about society, and her middle-class background established her reporting and commentary. readers Jet And publications like Highway TattlerAnd the Pittsburgh Courierand the Amsterdam news She sought her opinion on all matters of African American social life, for she was an insider but was not guarding the gates or seeking to turn away militants. This helped her invest evenly and clearly in the mission of racial equality and she worked with the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women. She was also a keen observer and skilled pioneer, so even as she covered routine events like cotillions, charity events, and HBCU football games — rhythms that might sound trivial in 2022 — her notes felt like serious journalism. “I wrote elements that enhanced the breadth and scope of the Black Traveler,” Major said in black society.

African Americans began traveling internationally in earnest after World War II, and some were inspired by descriptions from returning American soldiers of less segregated conditions in European capitals. But there were other motives, including a combination of persistent fear of racial aggression at home, which pushed African Americans across national borders, and the attraction of European countries that were actively encouraging black travelers to visit, believing that tourism revenue would help rebuild their war-ravaged cities. .

Tiffany M. said: Jill in a recent conversation. “It started with a wave of black women in the 1930s who used their professions to allow travel.” Dancers such as Josephine Baker and Ada Smith “Bricktop” and visual artists such as Augusta Savage have used their art as a way to see the world. Others, such as Juanita Harrison, have found alternative ways to achieve this. She began traveling abroad when she was thirteen, employed herself as a maid and worked other odd jobs to make ends meet. She chronicled her experiences in a diary of 1936, My great, vast and beautiful world.

Major did most of her early travels on her own, which was her own kind of challenge. As a light-skinned woman, she could move to Latin America or South Asia; Black Americans often use a traffic veil to protect their safety and increase their mobility. Steam ships were the major’s primary means of transportation during those early adventures, and two factors in black women’s ability to travel on board were the type of ship and the laws of the state that governed the ship company. “They had very unfair dismissal laws,” Gill said. “It created a great deal of uncertainty about whether you would even be able to buy a ticket and get a pass.” It was also not certain how she would be treated on board. “A lot of this has to do with who was on the plane, if whites were going to complain about blacks being there.”

“My legs say they want to stop, but my heart and head say, ‘Go on, and I do.'”

Major did not often address these disparities in her writing. “I think that was part of her charm,” Jill said. Its goal was to “show that black women can travel.” She was an unabashed promoter, and thus gave travel an appearance that hid some of the challenges African Americans faced. But Major has also worked closely with organizations like the NAACP, which have reported on cruise companies (particularly those that have received government subsidies) discriminating against black travelers.

The excitement and magic of the early days of black leisure travel lives on in the photo albums and antiques vaults of the people who have experienced it firsthand. Journalist Demetria Lucas recalls looking through her grandmother’s chest of drawers as a child and finding a shot of her on the back of a camel. In awe, I snapped the photo of her grandmother and learned that she was on vacation in Jerusalem and other faraway places in the 1950s. After that, Lucas said, “I felt that traveling was part of my birthright.”

Lucas, who contributes to major newspapers and has appeared as a guest on good morning americaShe has spent her adult life making travel around the world a personal priority. On her first trip to South Africa, in 2011, she stood on a rock in Cape Town and was struck by the beauty. She posted on Instagram, and popularized the hashtag #seesomeworld, “Everyone should come see something like this… be in awe of something so beautiful.”

That same year, a woman named Evita Robinson founded the Nomadness Travel Tribe, a group of black millennials who go on adventures together and share tips on where to go next. Robinson came up with the idea after spending 2009 in Niigata, Japan, teaching English during the week and working as a waiter on weekends to fund trips to neighboring countries. In 2011, while living in Thailand, she began searching for other people who, like her, were looking for similar minds to travel with. Today, Nomadness serves as a hub for information, travel service, and a platform to address the issues travelers face today. “This community was the beginning of blacks and blacks having their travel stories and not waiting for someone else to tell them,” she said.

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Evita Robinson, founder of the Nomadness Travel Tribe.

Bear in Monareng

When air travel became the primary means of traveling abroad, in the 1960s and 1970s, the flagship (then aging) doubled down on cruises. She started traveling with the newly emerging professional black women’s clubs, and offered to help beginners get into the scene. She started the tradition of going somewhere new on her birthday, and the trips became more adventurous as the years went by. In 1974 she celebrated her 80th birthday in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. “My legs say they want to stop, but my heart and head say, ‘Go on, I do.'” She followed that birthday party with one in Copenhagen and a gambling trip to Beirut. In 1977 she spent her 83rd birthday in Athens.

There, Major raised a glass to roast friends in Spanish: “Health, happiness, pita and spending time baking.“(For health, happiness, wealth, and time to enjoy them),” said Gill. “It could be the fullness of this wonderful and worldly black woman that could not be in the United States.” Unfortunately, her health was deteriorating. Major had hoped for one last trip, to China She said, “They told me they had no room for a wheelchair.” As she later explained, I only stopped traveling when “my body couldn’t keep up with my mind.” The major died of a stroke in 1984.

This story appears in the Summer 2022 issue of Town and Country. subscribe now

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