The mapping behind the movement: On recovering the critical cartographies of the African American Freedom Struggle

Derek H. Alderman, Joshua F.J. Inwood, Ethan Bottone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Responding to recent work in critical cartographic studies and Black Geographies, the purpose of this paper is to offer a conceptual framework and a set of evocative cartographic engagements that can inform geography as it recovers the seldom discussed history of counter-mapping within the African American Freedom Struggle. Black resistant cartographies stretch what constitutes a map, the political work performed by maps, and the practices, spaces, and political-affective dimensions of mapping. We offer an extended illustration of the conventional and unconventional mapping behind USA anti-lynching campaigns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, highlighting the knowledge production practices of the NAACP and the Tuskegee Institute's Monroe Work, and the embodied counter-mapping of journalist/activist Ida B. Wells. Recognizing that civil rights struggles are long, always unfolding, and relationally tied over time and space, we link this look from the past to contemporary, ongoing resistant cartographical practices as scholars/activists continue to challenge racialized violence and advance transitional justice, including the noted memory-work of the Equal Justice Initiative. An understanding of African American traditions of counter-mapping is about more than simply inserting the Black experience into our dominant ideas about cartography or even resistant mapping. Black geographies has much to teach cartography and geographers about what people of color engaged in antiracist struggles define as geographic knowledge and mapping practices on their own terms—hopefully provoking a broader and more inclusive definition of the discipline itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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