July 15, 2012

OURStory: Negro Motorist Green Book

We're able to plug a destination in our GPS and drive anywhere in the country that we want. It wasn't always so for Americans of African descent. There were many places on the nation's highways that were very unfriendly to African Americans. My Dad used to note that he always packed a full lunch whenever he was on a long ride because you could never tell if there would be an integrated eating place on the route.

I wonder if Dad knew about the Negro MotNegro Motorist Green Bookorist Green Book? This publication was released in 1936 and served as a guide for African American travelers. Because of the racist conditions that existed from segregation, Blacks needed a reference manual to guide them to integrated or Black-friendly establishments. That's when they turned to "The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide" by activist Victor Green and presented by the Esso Standard Oil Company. Originally provided to serve Metropolitan New York, the book received a great response and spread throughout the country within one year. The catch phrase was 'Now we can travel without embarrassment'.

The Green Book often provided information on local tourist homes, which were private residences owned by Blacks and open to travelers. It was especially helpful to Blacks that traveled through sunset towns or towns that publicly stated that Blacks had to leave the town by sundown or it would be cause for arrest. Also listed were hotels, barbershops, beauty salons, restaurants, garages, liquor stores, ball parks and taverns. It also provided a listing of the white-owned, Black-friendly locations for accommodations and food.

The publication was free, with a 10-cent cost of shipping. As interest grew, the Green Book solicited salespersons nationwide to build its ad sales.

Inside the pages of the Green Book were action photos of the various locations, along with historical and background information for the readers' review. Within the pages of the introduction, the guide states:
"There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States ."
The Green Book printed its last copy in 1964 after the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

2 comments:

SjP said...

When I first learned about this book, I said Oh My! Then I had an opportunity to read a pdf copy of it and was amazed that my little hometown is mentioned in it with a quote from my uncle! Then I said, LAWD, HAVE MERCY! Much obliged for sharing this great peace of Our History!

Villager said...

SjP - Care to share with us the name of our "little hometown"?