Rediscovered Black Travel Guide Series adds to U.S. Segregation Era History - Higher Education

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Rediscovered Black Travel Guide Series adds to U.S. Segregation Era History

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by Diverse Staff

A travel guide series for African-Americans dating back to 1936 has resurfaced in recent years, attracting considerable attention in the news media and in popular culture. The guide, The Negro Motorist Green Book (also called The Negro Travelers’ Green Book) was published by Harlem postal worker and civic leader Victor H. Green and it listed Black-friendly destinations based on accounts from travelers, who had to navigate across a nation that had severely curtailed motorist amenities for Blacks. 

Reporting in the TheRoot.com, writer Dr. Nsenga K. Burton mentions how Green’s travel series inspired Atlanta playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey to write a play entitled The Green Book. The play spins a tale in which a Black military officer and his wife stay in a “tourist home” (private homes identified as safe places for travel) with a Holocaust survivor on the eve of a speech being given by W.E.B. Du Bois in Jefferson City, Mo.

Burton also writes:

“Like users of today’s popular recommendation sites such as TripAdvisor, travelers collected information during their journeys, which they shared with Green and his team of editors. The data were then incorporated into future editions. ‘Historically, The Green Book falls in line with the underreported activism of Black postal workers and the heightened awareness of driving while Black in certain regions of the country,’ says Robert Smith, associate professor of African-American and civil rights history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. ‘Although many think of this book in historical terms, the challenges facing black travelers then resonate with Black travelers now, particularly as it relates to racial profiling and stop-and-frisk laws.’”

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