New Photo Series Highlights Experiences Of African-Americans On Route 66 During The Jim Crow Era

By Estefani Alarcon

It all started when Ashley was younger; she loved to create picture books and enjoyed writing stories to go along with them. At that time, she was not thinking about it being more than something she loved doing for fun. But fast forward 20 years later and she has now self-published her first photography book named Reclaiming The “Mother Road.” Reclaiming The “Mother Road” is a photography book that “uses fashion and storytelling to highlight the true experiences of African Americans who traveled along historic Route 66 during the Jim Crow era,” said Ashley.

Motivated to have a photo shoot on the first day of the new year to set the tone for the rest of 2018, Ashley wanted to include her love for traveling and fashion in her photo shoot. She thought about a photo series in the desert and began her research. She explored with Route 66 but as she looked through Pinterest boards, she realized there was nothing including Black people.

The majority of the women in the photos were white so she began researching Black people and their relationship with Route 66 during the 1900’s. Her researching findings provoked great curiosity in an important part of history that she was not taught growing up.

When Route 66 was completed in 1926 it became a very popular road as it was the first road to allow people to expand to the west but the glamorized experience was not the same for Black people. Racism was everywhere and some people were settling and starting businesses along the road who were pro Jim Crow laws which affected the experience Black people had while traveling through the road. The “Green Book” which was a travel guide for Black motorists in 1939 was created to safely help people travel across the country.

“Finding out this piece of history that I did not know before made the work much more intentional,” Ashley said.

Ashley connected the “Green Book” to present day as people are looking for places they can feel safe and welcomed at now. Surprised by her research findings expressing the terrorism Black people faced while traveling through Route 66, Ashley decided to “reclaim” the “mother road” by placing Black women in the center and capturing their essence in those spaces that did not safely allow it then.

“Reclaiming the “Mother Road” is a passion project inspired by the dedication to telling real stories as the models, make-up artist, and wardrobe stylist all believed in Ashley’s vision and made it happen in a matter of hours. Their collaboration created the book to not only teach a part of Black history that is often missed but also inspire young people to create with purpose and when they can’t find the inspiration they are looking for, to create it themselves.

“Telling this story with the hope that people learn something from the book and get to see beautiful Black women on the internet (because Pinterest didn’t have that) is what motivated me to create this,” Ashley said.

“I hope it inspires people and overall provides them with a new perspective because you can do it too,” she continued. “All you need is perseverance and dedication. Tell stories that are often overlooked and are missing in history.”

You can order a copy of Reclaiming the “Mother Road” by clicking this link. The book is available in hardcover and PDF.

Models: Monia Ashibi, Tsola Akuya
Stylist: Ambre Reed
Mua: Melissa Reyes

Creator and Photographer: Ashley Osborne




Estefani Alarcon is a recent graduate from Mount Saint Mary’s University with a dual degree in Film, Media and Social Justice and Journalism and New Media. She is currently a Media Mentor at Expo Center, a Social Media Intern at CRJW and a freelance writer. She is passionate about News & Politics, Culture, Race and Art. Connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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