Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide

Larry Holzwarth - February 25, 2019

During the era of the “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites in what was known as Jim Crow, a black middle-class emerged. Like others, ownership of an automobile became both desirable and in many cases a necessity. The automobile increased mobility and reduced dependence on public transit, which like everything else was segregated. Even long-distance railroad travel was segregated, with black travelers relegated to Jim Crow cars which were shabby, dilapidated, and less comfortable than those open to whites. Upon arrival at a station the black traveler found separate restrooms, eating facilities, and even ticket lines.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
The Introduction from the 1937 edition appeared in nearly all subsequent editions of what became known as the Green Book. Wikimedia

Travelling by automobile, whether for business or pleasure, eliminated those inconveniences and introduced a host of others. Many gas stations wouldn’t cater to black customers. Places to eat or sleep were likewise restricted. Some whole towns demanded blacks be outside of their limits between certain hours. Blacks travelling by the nation’s expanding highways could be in violation of the local laws without knowing it. In 1936, a book appeared which addressed these issues and more, intended to help black motorists avoid the pitfalls along the road which were a result of the Jim Crow era. It was called the Negro Motorist Travel Guide, and it was known as the Green Book, after its publisher, Victor Hugo Green. It was published annually for thirty years, and here is its story.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
As Blacks grew in affluence, their desire to travel for business and pleasure grew alongside. Newsweek

1. Its original publisher was a New York based postal worker

The era known as Jim Crow is generally associated with the southern states, but in fact segregation was rampant in the north as well, in the smaller towns and cities of many states, New York among them. Theaters, restaurants, lunch counters, beaches, state and federal parks, campgrounds, auto courts, hotels and motels, and virtually all other public facilities, were often segregated, or simply refused to serve blacks at all. Gas stations, which in that time not only sold gasoline and oil but serviced the vehicles of their customers by checking the water, battery, air pressure, and so on often refused to allow their white employees to wait on black customers.

The situation was bad enough in New York State that in 1936 Victor Hugo Green, a postal worker from Harlem, published the first of what would be three decades of travel guides for black motorists. His first edition was based on data he had accumulated over several years regarding businesses which accommodated black customers in the New York City area. Even as his first edition was being printed Green was gathering data for future expanded national editions of his book. He established an office in Harlem and began identifying the towns and cities across the United States where blacks could and could not find accommodations and services, based on the input from past customers.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
The Pennsylvania planned community of Levittown was a sundown town from its onset. Wikimedia

2. Sundown towns were threats to black travelers nationwide

When planning a trip via automobile, black motorists weren’t able to simply plot the most direct route on their road maps. They had to take into consideration whether there were places where they could stop to eat, to obtain gasoline and services, and to spend the night. The Green Book helped them identify such establishments. They also had to consider their time of arrival in certain locations, and whether that location was what became known as a sundown town. By the 1960s there were more than 10,000 sundown towns in the United States, with what were in effect curfew laws which denied access to black visitors between certain hours of the evening until certain hours the following morning, often the standard business hours of eight to five.

Levittown, Pennsylvania, was a sundown town, a largely planned community built to provide housing for veterans under the post-World War 2 GI Bill. Within its covenants was clause which read that a house within its borders could not be, “occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race”. There were several Levittowns built by builder William Levitt, who believed and said, “the plain fact is that most whites prefer not to live in mixed communities”. Levittown was a sundown town even after it began to become integrated in the late 1950s. Blacks entering sundown towns after hours were subject to arrest, and often to extrajudicial actions by residents, and the Green Book helped to warn them away from potential trouble.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
A sign for a Greyhound Bus Station in Rome, Georgia, 1943, indicates the difficulties encountered by Black Americans traveling during the Jim Crow era. Wikimedia

3. Advance identification of available restrooms was a consideration

As anyone who has ever traveled by car with small children can attest, coordinated restroom stops are a virtual impossibility. Not all of the children need to use the facilities at the same time, and seldom do. During the Jim Crow era, not all facilities were available at every potential stopping point, at least not for the Black motorist. Clearly identifying them as part of the planning of one’s route was paramount. So was using them when available, as changes to facilities subsequent to the publishing of the Green Book was always a possibility. It seems to modern sensibilities the denial of the use of a gas station’s restroom to children is unthinkable, but it was a fact of life during the Jim Crow era.

One reason Black motorists accepted such conditions by choosing to travel by automobile was because the conditions in the nation’s mass transit systems were often worse. Railcars offered to Black customers frequently did not have restrooms, Black passengers were expected to use the facilities offered at stations, which often did not have running water and were little more than outhouses. In many smaller stations of the South and Midwest they were outhouses. The Green Book offered an opportunity for a Black motorist to meticulously plan a trip for business or pleasure during which he would encounter as little inconvenience as possible under the racist laws of the place and time.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Even some federal facilities, as with this Public Health Service clinic, provided segregated areas within them. Wikimedia

4. Much of the racism encountered had to do with whites providing service

When Black motorists encountered service stations which did not sell their products to Blacks, or lunch counters where they were not allowed to sit and have a cup of coffee, it was most often not because they were considered unworthy of using the product. It was because the White gas jockey, or lunch counter man, or waitress, could not allow themselves to condescend to provide service to a Black person. Whether or not that was a concern of their own was immaterial, it was a concern to their neighbors, their fellow employees, their employers, and their local authorities. In the Jim Crow south, Blacks were to be kept in their place.

The Green Book warned of this in certain areas of the country, as did other travel guides directed towards Black motorists, as it concerned the rules of the road. Black motorists in the Mississippi delta area were warned against passing or pulling out in front of cars driven by Whites when on the unpaved roads in the region, because the dust raised by their car would soil the car behind them, making them the subject of hostility. The back roads of the Deep South were particularly dangerous for Black motorists, and the more substantial a vehicle they drove, the more likely they were to be stopped, as much because of racist local laws as because of the racial beliefs of the officer accosting them.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
By the late 1930s the Green Book had expanded its coverage to nearly half the nation. Wikimedia

5 The Green Book relied on the input of its readers for accuracy and currency

Victor Green wrote the first edition of the Green Book largely based on his own experience and observations within the New York metropolitan area it covered. As it expanded into national editions (and eventually to Mexico and the Caribbean) he relied on the input of its readers to provide him with descriptions of businesses which served Black customers. Readers who sent him reports of their own experiences, both good and bad, while traveling were paid one dollar at first. In 1941 he increased the payment to $5. He not only requested information regarding accommodations but also interesting stops and sites along the routes which welcomed the Black travelers and their families.

Green also used his connections with the Postal Service, of which he was an employee for some time, and which was then one of the largest employers of Blacks in the United States. Postal employees were queried about the areas in which they lived, and the information was compiled by Green at his Harlem office for publication in upcoming editions of the Green Book. Green’s primary goal with each edition was to provide up-to-date and accurate information to travelers, particularly in the dangerous regions of the Jim Crow south, as more and more Black Americans left southern farms and small towns for employment in the nation’s growing industrial base.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Black motorists were likely to find even tourist camps with separate bungalows for guests were segregated, where they could not spend the night. Wikimedia

6. Sleeping accommodations were often the biggest problem facing Black motorists

Tourist camps, auto camps, and even the lodges offered by some state parks did not generally cater to Blacks in the 1930s and 1940s, and even in some large urban areas it was difficult to find a hotel room for Black travelers. Sleeping in the car along the side of the road left one subject to charges of vagrancy or trespassing, regardless of the amount of money in one’s pocket. In many cities, including Chicago, the managers of the several hotels agreed to not let rooms to Blacks, though a few made exceptions for Black musicians performing in their lounges. The Green Book stressed the availability of sleeping accommodations, and the distances which had to be traveled between them.

Another consideration was the availability of gasoline. Some stations which sold gasoline to Black customers (Esso gas stations not only sold gasoline, they also sold the Green Book) were located within sundown towns, and had to be reached during daylight hours to avoid trouble. Driving at night was considered suspect by many smaller communities and rural police officers. Nor was the problem limited to the South and the border states. Anna, Illinois was by locally passed ordinance a town in which no Blacks were allowed to reside, established by the town in 1909. Some historians have listed more than half of the incorporated communities in Illinois as sundown towns in the 1930s.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide

Each edition of the Green Book solicited information from its readers regarding the businesses which served them. Wikimedia

7. Although many businesses excluded Blacks, many others did not

There were of course businesses which provided goods and services to Black patrons, if there were not there would have been no Green Book to list them. Many were owned and operated by Blacks, and catered exclusively to Blacks. The Green book listed hotels, restaurants, theaters, country clubs, campgrounds, and parks which accepted Blacks among their users. It also listed barber shops and beauty parlors, tailors and shoe stores, taverns and pool halls, and of course, gas stations and mechanics where cars could be serviced. Nearly all of the businesses were on a cash basis in those pre-credit card days, those which would accept personal checks were often identified. In the Deep South, many banks refused accounts to Blacks.

In most of America’s cities with significant Black populations newspapers emerged which were oriented toward their audience, and they began to endorse the Green Book and other similar guides. As mentioned, the Esso Company sponsored the book, sold it in its gas stations, and recommended purchasing a new copy annually. Esso also provided company produced maps which corresponded to the Green Book by the 1940s, and the book included photographs of Esso stations owned and operated by Blacks. In contrast, throughout the 1940s, Shell stations were considered to be hostile by most Blacks, developing a reputation – deserved or not – for refusing service to Black customers.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
By 1948 the Green Book was describing a time when it would no longer be a necessity. NYPL

8. The Green book prophesied its own demise in the 1948 introduction

Each annual edition of the Green Book included an introduction, in which its users were brought up to date with its progress through the years. The introduction usually asked readers to help identify businesses which catered to Black travelers that weren’t as yet listed in the pages. Readers were requested to make such businesses aware of the guide, and asked them to contact the editors in Harlem for inclusion in future editions. By 1948 the Green Book had expanded to 80 pages of listings, though in its introduction it acknowledged that there existed “thousands of first-class business places that we don’t know about and can’t list”.

In its 1948 introduction Green wrote of the need for the book among travelers and that the need would one day be gone. “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” he proclaimed, predicting a time of full equality between the races and the absence of “separate but equal” facilities and business practices. “It will be a great for us to suspend this publication,” wrote Green, “for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment” Green went on to announce that until that day came he would continue publish the guide annually, with improvements and additions provided by its readers and the businesses it listed within its pages.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Comments from correspondents were published for those areas where few or no listings were available. NYPL

9. The Green Book published comments from correspondents it dispatched to different areas

In addition to the listings of businesses, the Green Book published notes from correspondents which described attitudes and demographics in certain areas. The 1948 edition carried the report of a correspondent at Dickinson, North Dakota. “Ignorance is the root of prejudice, the unnamed writer submitted, “There is a special type of ignorance in this section regarding Negroes”. The writer goes on to explain that there were few Blacks in North Dakota generally, and that because of the lack of Blacks in the area, “…a colored person is still a curiosity”. The writer nonetheless asserts that the majority of Dickinson’s presumably white-owned businesses would cater to Black customers, because, “North Dakotans, generally, are friendly”.

Another correspondent, from Shelby, Montana, wrote though the majority of the businesses in the community would serve Black customers, none wanted to list their names in a guide which indicated that they were advertising for more Black customers. Their concern, according to the correspondent, was “fear of finding all touring Negroes near here overcrowding the facilities to the exclusion of old customers”. The same correspondent claimed that, “A pretty reasonable attitude exists here, but we have had so few colored people in this area that I would hesitate to say to what extent many more would be at liberty to come and go without running into difficulty”.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
The 1948 edition contained descriptions of both Keller and Tucker automobiles, though neither company survived the 1940s. Wikimedia

10. Tucker Automobiles advertised in the 1948 edition of the Green Book

The Tucker ’48 was introduced in the 1948 Green Book, with a one and one third page announcement of the vehicle’s innovations and design features. The sealed engine coolant system – with no water or antifreeze ever needed to be added – was presented with pride. The description included the car being equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels, with hydraulically assisted incremental increases in brake pressure, sponge rubber padding on the dash board, a safety glass windshield which could be popped out in one piece, and other innovations which were decades ahead of their time.

Both Tucker and a competitor, Keller Motors, actively solicited Black customers for their cars, which in the case of Keller were the Chief and Super Chief. Keller also made efforts to control all sales of its models through the factory, rather than through dealerships, which its management believed were dominated by illicit price increases in the post-war years. Both companies sponsored the Green Book in 1948, hoping to increase the number of Black motorists and thus creating a new market for their cars. The Keller Automobile Company folded in 1950, having failed to sell enough cars to keep its Huntsville, Alabama facility open. Only about 50 Tucker 48s were built before the company closed in early 1949.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Support from Esso included the distribution of the book through their network of service stations. NYPL

11. Esso Corporation sponsorship was touted in the Green Book

James A. Jackson was a Special Representative of the Esso Marketers who supported the Green Book from the outset, both ensuring that Esso service stations carried the guide for sale to their customers, and in articles written for inclusion in the book. The Esso marketers traveled as part of their business, and Jackson made sure that they used the Green Book whether traveling by car or rail on their business trips. Jackson noted the steady improvement of the book in an article which he wrote for the 1948 edition, entitled, “Where Are You Going to Stop?” Jackson pointed out the steady increase in businesses listed in the guide, and extolled its usefulness to business travelers.

Writing to what he referred to as the “segregated group”, Jackson stated that, “we need more hotels and kindred services, as we constitute a substantial segment of the traveling public.” Jackson exhorted users of the Green book to support the businesses listed therein, and to recommend to local businesses that they be listed in the guide. “Bless the Green book and its service,” wrote Jackson. He also used the opportunity to point out that when planning a trip by car, Esso road maps and the Green book, used in conjunction with each other, allowed travelers to, “…go farther with less anxiety and more pleasure”.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
A typical listings page from the 1948 edition of the Green Book, which did not include ratings or recommendations. NYPL

12. Listings changed with each edition and were not all-inclusive

The 1948 edition of the Green Book listed thirteen hotels in the city of Los Angeles, and more than twenty restaurants where Black patrons would find themselves welcomed. Nine nightclubs were listed in the downtown area, and numerous taverns and road houses appeared. There were also listings for service stations, garages, automotive stores, beauty parlors and barber shops, drugstores, and tailors. In contrast San Diego listed three hotels, one of which was the YWCA. Santa Monica listed no hotels at all. San Francisco listed four, including the new Edison Hotel, which took out a half page ad in the guide announcing its status as “Class A”.

Chicago’s listings included both the YWCA and the YMCA under its hotels, of which many were located on South Parkway, later renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Cincinnati also included the YWCA in its list of but six hotels, though it listed numerous restaurants, including a separate listing for Chinese Restaurants, which held just one entry. Cincinnati also included a list of taxi cabs available for Black customers, though there were only two entries. North Dakota, where the correspondent for Green had noted that its residents were “generally friendly” contained no entries at all in the 1948 edition of the Green book.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
A tourist guide to New York was a feature of the 1948 edition of the Green Book. NYPL

13 The Green Book carried tourist information for New York City

Since it was born in New York City and its nearby environs, it was little surprise that the section which covered New York was the most extensive of the book for many years. Augmented with photographs and maps, the Green Book listed dozens of establishments within the city which catered to Black customers, including stores and shops of all kinds, garages, service stations, taxi companies, dance halls, pool rooms, theaters, and the usual lists of taverns, restaurants, lunch counters, hotels, boarding houses, and tourist houses. Most of the hotels listed for New York City were in Harlem, and as with other locations the YMCA and YWCA were included.

The Green Book (1948) also included a Points of Interest section for New York City, describing both the sites and the manner of transportation to reach them. Coney Island was described as “perhaps the most popular playground in the world”. The Statue of Liberty was recommended to the attention of visitors and several museums described, including the Museum of the Numismatic Society. The Bronx Zoo was described as having the “greatest collection of animals in the world”. A tour of Greenwich Village was recommended, though many of its establishments were segregated, and a copy of the Green Book was needed to ensure that one entered an establishment where welcomed, rather than not.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
An edition touting America’s railroads appeared in 1951, with no mention of the many still segregated stations throughout the United States. NYPL

14. The Green book published a railroad edition in 1951

In 1951 the Negro Motorist Green Book published what was entitled An International Travel Guide Railroad Edition. An extensive article on the improvements and luxuries available when traveling by rail opened the book. The article included photographs of porters and waiters – all Black – serving passengers, all of whom were White. The article did not include a discussion of the many segregated waiting rooms and dining facilities at railroad stations across the country, particularly in the Deep South and in Appalachia. It was written in collaboration between Green and the Association of American Railroads.

By the time the 1951 edition was released Green was, in addition to publishing the Green Book, operating a travel agency and a sightseeing agency in New York City. The 1951 edition included a vacation planning guide and offered Vacation Planning and Reservation Services through Victor H. Green and Company. Green also offered printing services by direct mail, advertising his products and prices in the book. The motto “Covering the United States Like a Blanket” appeared on the back cover of the Green Book, and the listings inside remained an indication of the number of sites across the country where segregation continued to hold sway.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
The 1952 edition brought a change in title, with Travelers replacing Motorist. NYPL

15. The title changed to The Negro Traveler’s Green Book for 1952

The Index Page for the 1952 edition contained a note which read, “We have necessarily changed the name of our guide…” and explained that the use of the word motorist in the title was misleading, as the guide covered, “…any mode of travel”. The book contained a list of America’s National Parks and contact information for each of them. A description of New Orleans and its many tourist destinations was included in the edition, though it ended with somewhat of a caveat to its readers, “All in all, any visitor who goes to this great city with an open mind to enjoy all that it has to offer – should be rewarded”. The book listed thirteen hotels in New Orleans which welcomed Black travelers.

The following year an airline edition appeared. “This year it is our distinct privilege to introduce to our Green Book patrons the miracle of modern travel – Air Transportation”, the guide announced. Descriptions of three airlines followed; Pan American Airways, American Airlines, and Trans-World Airlines, and readers of the guide were “earnestly” urged to consider air travel as their mode of transportation for both business and pleasure. The same edition contained a description of Louisville, Kentucky, both as a city of residence and as a tourist destination. Louisville at the time was one of the most severely segregated cities of the United States, a situation which did not change until the 1960s.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
Although not clearly identified as such, it was believed that Victor H. Green was the man in the photograph included in the 20th Anniversary edition. NYPL

16. The twentieth anniversary was celebrated in 1956 with separate spring and fall editions

In a self-congratulatory article which opened the 1956 autumn edition of the Green Book, a staffer wrote of potential trips to the moon, “When travel of this kind becomes available, you can be sure your Green Book will have the recommended listings”. Green inserted a comment of thanks to the readers, claiming that large numbers of White-owned businesses had come to value the patronage of Black customers through the use of the guides. Advertisements for products not associated with travel began to appear within the listings. A guide to fall and winter vacations appeared in the book, with up-to-date descriptions of highway re-constructions and routes to ski resorts and other winter attractions.

The 1956 fall edition also contained a notice from the Nationwide Hotel Association (NHA) of which the Green Book was a member. The NHA was an association of Black hotel owners. The notice informed readers of the Green Book that spring efforts to maintain and spruce up the appearance of their hotels were ongoing, and mandatory for those hotels which displayed the NHA logo. The notice addressed the impression that many of the hotels of its members were seedy and run-down (they were) and asked for patience from the consumers as the problems were addressed. “When you are traveling, stop at a hotel, motel, or guest house which displays the NHA emblem”, it requested of its readers.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
1960 brought another name change, though the Green Book’s purpose was expressed at the top of the title page. NYPL

17. It became the Travelers’ Green Book in 1960

The 1960 edition of the travel guide was entitled The Travelers’ Green Book, with the racial description removed, though it carried a motto on the title page which read, “Assured Protection for the Negro Traveler”. More of the listings were in the form of advertisements for the restaurants and accommodations being offered. Some listings carried endorsements from the editors of the book. Additional advertisements for local products appeared in the listings where appropriate, for example a regional dairy touting its milk and other products to travelers around Chickamauga, Georgia. One supermarket ran an ad which showed its owner shaking hands with a broadly smiling Martin Luther King, while Ralph Abernathy stood by.

The guide, while intended for all travelers, still showed its roots in the days of motoring, with little or no references to railroads, their stations, and none regarding flying and airports. There were many references to using road maps while planning a trip, and writing or phoning to make reservations for accommodations well before they were needed, to avoid disappointments. There were numerous ads for automobile maintenance as well. The 1960 guide closed with a brief note, meant to be humorous, describing how to avoid growing old. From first page to last its primary focus was on travelers by automobile, despite the changes to the book’s appearance and title page over the years.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
In the 25th anniversary edition, the Green Book claimed to include only the best places within its listings. NYPL

18. By 1961 the Green Book claimed to list only the best places for travelers

In 1961 the Travelers’ Green Book celebrated its 25th anniversary, announcing in its message that it “…as always…lists only the best places”. By then Victor Green had not been the editor for nearly a decade, with those duties filled by his wife Alma. Green served as an informal advisor, concentrating his own time on the travel agency side of the business. It was claimed in the celebratory message that since the earliest days of publication Green had personally visited and inspected many of the businesses listed in the Green Book, a claim which had not been made in earlier editions, and which was only true of the earliest edition which had covered only New York City and its region.

It was also claimed that Green dropped those businesses which did not deliver the services claimed, but throughout the history of the Green Book the vast majority of businesses listed did not make any claims, simply providing their names and addresses, as well as the type of business they were. As had the Green Book of the preceding year, the 1961 edition ended with a meant to be humorous reminder of driving safely, and it again was aimed directly at those traveling by automobile rather than on the then rapidly fading passenger railroads or by airplane.

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
New York continued to be the most extensively covered location even after the Green Book went international. NYPL

19. The 1962 edition endorsed American Express Travelers checks in its opening editorial

The 1962 edition of the Green Book opened with an editorial which discussed the dangers of the age and the Cold War, and the appeal of travel as a means of handling stress. It called vacations mandatory as a means of therapy, and it also recommended travel as a way of broadening the mind and improving communications between the nations of the world. From that lofty position it recommended the meticulous planning of vacations, and the necessity of carrying lots of money, which it claimed would best be in the form of American Express Travelers Checks. It also mentioned favorably the American Express World-Wide Credit Card system.

The Green Book of 1962 suggested vacations in Mexico, Canada, and Europe, as well as to the Caribbean Islands. It also suggested the then relatively new cruise lines which it could accommodate through its own travel agency. The idea of a domestic family vacation via automobile on the under construction Interstate Highway System wasn’t even mentioned in the discourse on vacations, with the entire focus being on travelers’ leaving the United States for foreign locales. It closed with another description of New York City, which it called “perhaps the greatest port in the world and the financial, intellectual, and artistic center of the Nation (sic).

Black Americans Used to Have to Navigate Jim Crow Laws During Road Trips with this Travel Guide
As civil rights laws changed across the country the Green Book carried updates for travelers’ across the United States. NYPL

20. The Green Book ended publication in 1966

Although the Green Book claimed to only list the best places in its editions over the years, some who remember it in use remember that not always being the case. Civil rights activist Julian Bond recalled his parents’ use of the guide and that it frequently directed travelers not to the best places, but often the only place. Quality of food and services at places listed in the book was not guaranteed, and not consistent throughout the country. The Black owned hotels listed in the book by town and city lost customers to the new motels built near highway exits in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, especially in the northern states. The international final edition of 1966-67 featured on its cover a drawing of a White woman skiing.

Its influence throughout the period in which it was published was nonetheless substantial, as business owners reached out to new customers and Black travelers were able to make better use of their time traveling. The Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s removed its purpose, though some bitter segregationists found ways to bend the law, and sad to say some still do. The final edition of the book, which featured the White skier, included a breakdown of the civil rights laws by state, including anti-Jim Crow laws which had been enacted. The final edition included travel destination listings in Africa as well, and though the advice provided was minimal when compared with some previous editions, it did remind its readers as always, to keep an open mind when on their journeys, and enjoy the difference from home.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Green Book: The forgotten story of one carrier’s legacy helping others navigate Jim Crow’s highways”. The Postal Record. September 2013. Pdf. Online

“Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism”. James W. Loewen. 2006

“This Segregated Railway Car Offers a Visceral Reminder of the Jim Crow Era”. Alex Palmer, Smithsonian.com. June 13, 2016

“Segregation Had to be Invented”. Alana Semuels, The Atlantic. February 17, 2017

“Breaking Ground: How the Green Book Helped African-American Tourists Navigate a Segregated Nation”. Jacinda Townsend, Smithsonian Magazine. April 2016

“Jim Crow and the Green Book Hotels”. Rick Holmes, MetroWest Daily News. February 10, 2019

“So That We as a Race Might Have Something Authentic to Travel By”. Cotton Seiler. 2012

“The Negro Motorist Green Book”. Victor H. Green, ed. 1940 edition (2016)

“The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All”. Celia McGee, The New York Times. August 22, 2010

“The Negro Motorist Green Book”. July 29, 2014, Harry Tunnel, (1936-1964)

“The American Railroad”. The Negro Motorist Green Book Railroad Edition. 1951

“The Negro Travelers’ Green Book”. Victor H. Green. 1954 (2017)

“Janus”. Novera C. Dashiell. The Travelers’ Green Book. 1961

Note: All cited editions of the Green Book are available for online viewing at the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection

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