Why I’m Taking a Detour: Letter from the Publisher

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  • Published on June 7, 2022
  • Last Updated March 10, 2023
  • In DETOUR Desk

Ron Stodghill, Publisher of DETOUR, shares how a history of Black travel writing inspired a digital magazine following the Black travel movement today.

Back in the 1850s, David Dorr accompanied his white owner on a tour of the world’s major cities. By day, Dorr played a perfect servant to the Louisiana businessman, but at night Dorr would slip out to enjoy a stroll through the streets of London, Venice, and Jerusalem. The experience was transformative; returning to the states, Dorr not only escaped slavery and moved to Ohio, but went on to self-publish Colored Man Round the World (1858), a richly reported travelogue which courageously omits all traces of his former owner from the narrative.

These days, I tend to think of David Dorr as the origin story for DETOUR, a new digital travel magazine launching in partnership with McClatchy and theMissouri School of Journalism. Like Dorr nearly two centuries ago, DETOUR celebrates the importance of seeing the world for yourself, of moving, as the late Toni Morrison might have said, beyond the “white gaze.” There’s an old African adage that says, “Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” For centuries, Black people have influenced global culture — in food, fashion, music, politics and sports. Yet travel media is still largely stuck in the past, a clubby white industry aimed at affluent white audiences and cloaked in messages that promote European colonialism.

DETOUR has blossomed in a couple years from loose concept into, starting today, a robust storytelling platform that will connect Black travelers through the power of information and storytelling. I remember the day DETOUR was conceived. I was standing in the marble foyer of a gaudy mansion on a Louisiana plantation. on assignment for the New York Times travel section. The mansion was a stop along the state’s newly launched African American Heritage Trail, and the plantation had been purchased and restored by a wealthy white developer, who that day doubled as our guide. Listening to glib musings on slavery and antebellum life was hard enough. When he started pontificating on slavery’s lingering effect on Black parenting — well, I just walked off.

Black people want a messenger whose experiences reflect at least some of their truth, and, more than ever, we’re willing to go the distance to find it.

Rochelle Fritsch, the subject of DETOUR’s animated documentary, does just that. When the Milwaukee native gets an urge to learn about her family history, she ends up on a blood-soaked trail in Missouri. Featuring scoring and original music by DETOUR’s Gary V. Brown, a four-time Grammy Award-nominated producer. “The Whitewashing of Missouri” is a harrowing tale, beautifully illustrated, of a Black woman’s quest to unlock an old family secret, which involves a false imprisonment, a lynching and purging of Black residents from a small Missouri town in 1904.

The short film, which captures some of the American heartland’s tragic history through a Black family’s eyes, is quintessential DETOUR — and precisely the kind of story we plan to keep telling.

We hope you enjoy, and will pass it along!

Until next time, safe travels

Ron Stodghill

Publisher

This story was originally published June 07, 2022 9:00 AM.

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