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October 22, 2018 The Negro Motorist Green Book
Post by John Rancke
I learned there is a movie coming out about a book that was around from 1930-1960’s. Reading Wikipedia I learned about that the book and its necessity . Sad period for our country. Today you can find websites like Travel Guides Free but there was a time when you needed to pay for travel info especially if you were a Black American.
The Negro Motorist Green Book (at times styled The Negro Motorist Green-Book or titled The Negro Travelers’ Green Book) was an annual guidebook for African American road trippers, commonly referred to simply as the Green Book.
It was originated and published by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the era of Jim Crow laws, when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against non-whites was widespread.
Although pervasive racial discrimination and poverty limited black car ownership, the emerging African-American middle class bought automobiles as soon as they could but faced a variety of dangers and inconveniences along the road, from refusal of food and lodging to arbitrary arrest. In response, Green wrote his guide to services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans, eventually expanding its coverage from the New York area to much of North America, as well as founding a travel agency.
Many Black Americans took to driving, in part to avoid segregation on public transportation. As the writer George Schuyler put it in 1930, “all Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult.” Black Americans employed as athletes, entertainers, and salesmen also traveled frequently for work purposes.
African-American travelers faced hardships such as white-owned businesses refusing to serve them or repair their vehicles, being refused accommodation or food by white-owned hotels, and threats of physical violence and forcible expulsion from whites-only “sundown towns”. Green founded and published the Green Book to avoid such problems, compiling resources “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.”
From a New York-focused first edition published in 1936, Green expanded the work to cover much of North America, including most of the United States and parts of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The Green Book became “the bible of black travel during Jim Crow” enabling black travelers to find lodgings, businesses, and gas stations that would serve them along the road. It was little known outside the African-American community. Shortly after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed the types of racial discrimination that had made the Green Book necessary, publication ceased and it fell into obscurity.
There has been a revived interest in it in the early 21st century in connection with studies of black travel during the Jim Crow era.
Four issues (1940, 1947, 1954, and 1963) have been republished in facsimile (as of December 2017), and have sold well.
In the 2000s, academics, artists, curators, and writers exploring the history of African-American travel in the United States during the Jim Crow era revived interest in the Green Book. The result has been a number of projects, books and other works referring to the Green Book. The book itself has acquired a high value as a collectors’ item; a “partly perished” copy of the 1941 edition sold at auction in March 2015 for $22,500.