The Green Book Helped African-Americans Travel Safely



Your African-American ancestors might have used “The Green Book” to help them safely travel. The guide informed travelers of the safest places to eat, sleep, and more. It wasn’t the only guide of its kind, but it was the most popular.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was first published in 1936. The idea came from Victor Hugo Green, who was a Harlem-based postal carrier. He was African-American and weary of the discrimination blacks faced when they ventured outside their neighborhoods. At the time, there were places with “Whites Only” policies, and “Sundown Towns” that banned black people after dark.

Victor Hugo Green’s inspiration came from books published for Jewish audiences. The first edition of “The Green Book” only covered hotels and restaurants in the New York area that were safe for African-Americans. The book expanded its scope thanks to field reports from fellow postal carriers and also by offering cash payments to readers who sent in useful information.

By the 1940s, “The Green Book” had information about thousands of establishments from across the country. Every one of them was either black-owned or verified to be non-discriminatory. By 1949, the book included information for Denver, Atlanta, and Richmond, Virginia. It includes lists of safe boarding houses, beauty shops, barber shops, and other services.

Eventually, “The Green Book” listings were organized by state and city. Larger cities had more information than remote places. In 1960, Alaska had only one listing. Some locations did not have any black-friendly hotels, so the book listed addresses of homes where owner were willing to rent rooms to black people.

The 1963-1964 edition was one of the last printings of “The Green Book”. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places, and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Today, information about restaurants, hotels, and towns that are not safe for black people to travel to can be found online. On June 7, 2017, the Missouri National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued an Urgent Missouri Travel Advisory. The advisory was in response to SB 43, which the Missouri NAACP identifies as a “Jim Crow Bill”.

The advisory is in effect until at least August 28, 2017. The Missouri NAACP asks people do the following: “warn your families, co-workers and anyone visiting Missouri to beware of safety concerns with travel in Missouri; notify members of your trade associations, social and civic organizations that they are traveling and living in Missouri at their own risk and subject to unnecessary search seizure and potential arrest; and file and seek help on any existing claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation and whistle blowing ASAP.”

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* International African American Museum Launches Genealogy Center

* Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture

* Tips for Researching Your African-American Ancestors

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