Dr. Tamara J. Walker: Beyond the Shores


This episode of Big Blend Radio features author and writer Tamara J. Walker who discusses her book, “Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad,” which is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Watch the interview here in the YouTube player or download the episode on Podbean.


“Beyond the Shores” reveals poignant histories of a diverse group of African Americans who have left the United States over the course of the past century. Together, the interwoven stories highlight African Americans’ complicated relationship to the United States and the world at large.

Drawing on years of research, Walker takes readers from well-known capital cities to more unusual destinations like Yangiyul, Uzbekistan, and Kabondo, Kenya. She follows Florence Mills, the would-be Josephine Baker of her day, in Paris, and Richard Wright, the author turned actor and filmmaker, in Buenos Aires. Throughout “Beyond the Shores,” she relays tender stories of adventurous travelers, including a group of gifted Black crop scientists in the 1930s, a housewife searching for purpose in the 1950s, and a Peace Corps volunteer discovering his identity in the 1970s. Tying these tales together is Walker’s personal account of her family’s, and her own, experiences abroad—in France, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, and beyond.

By sharing the accounts of those who escaped the racism of the United States to try their hands at life abroad, “Beyond the Shores” shines a light on the meaning of home and the search for a better life.

As an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College of Columbia University, Tamara’s teaching focuses on three interrelated areas: the history of slavery and freedom in Latin America; the process of racial formation in the region; and the ways in which gender shaped the experience of enslavement and racialization.

As a writer, she has written commentary on fashion, pop culture, and travel, with the latter subject being particularly close to her heart. Her early exposure to international travel came while a scholarship student at a private high school. As an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she spent a semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina to conduct independent research on race and national identity in the region. Her semester abroad inspired her to pursue a PhD in Latin American History at the University of Michigan, where she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship for dissertation research in Peru.

Tamara is a co-founder of The Wandering Scholar, a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to make international education opportunities accessible to students from low-income backgrounds.

Tamara has written for publications such as The Root, TIME, Slate and the Guardian. She is the author of “Exquisite Slaves: Race, Clothing, and Status in Colonial Lima” (Cambridge University Press). “Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad” is her second book, published by Crown/Penguin Random House. Learn more about Tamara at: www.tamarajwalker.com


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Tamara has written for publications such as The Root, TIME, Slate and the Guardian.

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