Driving While Black… with Green

It’s vacation season. Millions of us are hitting the highways, to visit relatives, or Disney World or exploring the two-lane roads. The automobile is an American icon, a symbol of our freedom. From Duncan Hines to the A.A.A., travel guides have helped vacationers and business travelers on their journeys. For some Americans, though, mainstream publications were not very helpful.

Victor Hugo Green

African-Americans on the road found challenges in finding a bed for the night or a decent meal or a rest room. Jim Crow was enforced by law or by custom in many areas. Some cities had Sunset Laws, prohibiting non-whites from being in town after dark.

Victor Hugo Green first published his travel  guide in 1936. The Negro Motorist Green Book listed businesses that welcomed black patrons. Green, a veteran of World War I, a New York City mail carrier and later a travel agent, published his book “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” Green’s book initially focused on the New York area. Subsequent editions, with the help of correspondents and readers, expanded the territory, eventually covering the U.S. and parts of Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation and discrimination in public accommodations and lessened the need for the “Green Book.” It ceased publishing in 1967.

You can view a pdf version of the 1949 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book  here.

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