Map of places traveled to by Grahams
August 10, 1965, Benjamin and Frances Graham, an African American married couple from Baltimore, Maryland, with no prior camping experience, accompanied by their three small children, embarked on their maiden voyage to the New York World's Fair in their newly purchased 17’ Stardust RV Trailer. That same week, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Watts Riots erupted for which 14,000 National Guardsman were deployed, 34 people were killed (31 African Americans), 1,000 were injured, and 4,000 were jailed. In the end, they traveled 35 years, in 3 trailers, 94, 219.80 miles, spending $32,600.05 to every state but two.
I am developing a documentary, Everyone But Two: The Life, Love and Travel of Benjamin and Frances Graham. Benjamin Graham (my grandfather) kept meticulous logs tracking every detail of their trips; i.e., routes driven and the amounts spent on gas, groceries and camp fees. In essence, I can retrace their steps and tell their compelling story as African Americans traveling by RV trailer thru America during a turbulent time in American history.
There are 4 stages to the project. Stage I: research and document the Civil Rights Movement and racial climate at the time and location of their travels. Stage II [Ruby Grant, 1st year]: retrace and document with elements of the trips, using their log, to travel the 48 contiguous states. Stage III [2nd year]: using an itinerary prepared by the Graham’s, I would travel as a surrogate to Alaska and Hawaii and document the trip for the Grahams, thus completing the journey for them. Stage IV: document me sharing my experience traveling to Alaska and Hawaii with the Grahams as a symbolic conclusion.
LIFE OF BENJAMIN AND FRANCES
Frances was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She was the daughter of Bernard and Elizabeth Ralph. She and 3 siblings, sister Bertie, brothers Bernard Jr, and James grew up in a household where education was important; the sons were expected to become doctors and the daughters educators. During Frances' education, she became part of the Quaker’s American Friends Service Committee, participating in sit-ins and protests against lynching. Frances also attended New York University to complete her Masters Degree in Teaching. She would become a life long educator from teaching to counseling, where she would retire after 30 years of employment.
Benjamin was also a Baltimore native, sharing a home with his brother Harold and mother, Nancy Paramore. After graduating from high school, Benjamin was drafted to serve in the Army. He was in a segregated unit in World War II, where he faced racism abroad in Germany. After the war he returned to the states and successfully passed the Civil Servants Exam, only to be overtly denied positions as an FBI Agent and US Postal Inspector because of his race. He would become a United States Postal Worker, where he would retire after 30 years of employment.
LOVE OF BENJAMIN AND FRANCES
Benjamin and Frances were both born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, both attended the same high school at the same time, lived in the same neighborhood and had mutual acquaintances. One of those mutual acquaintances was Frances’ sister Bertie. Benjamin and Frances however did not meet each other until a fateful trip they both took to New York City when Frances traveled with her sister and friends and Benjamin traveled with friends. Once they met, they would begin a relationship that would blossom into a marriage. Benjamin and Frances began a family and be the proud parents of three girls, Leslie, Benita and Nancy. After seven decades of marriage and tens of thousands of miles traveled together, they were still young sweet hearts.
TRAVEL OF BENJAMIN AND FRANCES GRAHAM
On August 10, 1965, Benjamin began a log to document their first trip in their brand new 17' Stardust RV trailer. Each series of entries for the next 35 years would begin with an empty photocopied McNally map of the United States that he would outline their route by hand.
Immediately following the outlined map, Benjamin would create a summary sheet of the entire trip. In addition to routes and places they stayed, he would include the trip totals: gas, mileage, days on the road.
In 1969, four years after the first trip documented only by map and summary, Benjamin added the last component, the daily log entry. The details of the trip were recorded daily for each week. Categories in addition to those tallied on summary were costs for groceries, laundry, dinner, camping fees and entertainment. At the bottom, Benjamin would also make notes of milestone distances traveled or information about routes. This travel log was used after they ended traveling by RV trailer. Benjamin and Frances continued to travel by car. The last entry logged was in 2003 for a trip that included visiting me in Madison, Wisconsin.