“It has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.”-Victor H. Green & Company, “The Negro Motorists Green Book”
I know I’m mad late with this post, but who said remembrance of Black History should only be contained to the shortest month of the year…
One evening, after a very stressful day at work, I decided to take myself on a dinner and movie date. My movie of choice: Green Book (shout out to executive director, Octavia Spencer). While many people criticized the “White Savior” theme or “Hollywood version” of racism displayed throughout the movie, I still enjoyed watching and was even moved by certain parts. So much so, that I felt compelled to do some research about who Dr. Don Shirley was, explore the dynamics of the relationship between white immigrants and blacks in the 1960s, and of course dive into the importance of the Green Book.
I really believe that the Green Book somewhat sparked the desire of travel for blacks. And in today’s society, the desire to travel has definitely been embedded in “Millenial” culture. There are so many black travel guides, blogs, photographers, influencers that quench their wanderlust. Showing that its ok to travel, meet new people, see new things, experience different cultures, and support black owned business all over the world. The world is so much bigger than the cities we live in. And it’s only right that we all have the OPPORTUNITY of wanderlust.
From the 1930s to 1960s, black drivers used Victor Green’s Negro Motorist’s Guide to travel across the country and find places that were “black friendly” to eat, sleep, and play, without the threat of experiencing racism, mistreatment, or embarrassment (alot of places being women owned). In the South, there was blatant racism, with “White Only” and “No Blacks allowed” signs, but in the North is was more subtle. There were no signs hanging in windows which, I’m sure, made it hard to determine what places were safe and which ones were not. But one can just tell when their presence is not welcome.
The dangers of driving on back roads, across state lines, through lynch mobs and past sun down towns (towns where only white citizens were allowed after dark), probably discouraged many blacks from traveling. But the Green Book provided information on knowing rights in certain states, and black owned/friendly stops.
Side Note: Did You Know? Senate JUST RECENTLY passed a bill making Lynching a Federal Offense. When I say recent I MEAN December of 2018 recent. Ain’t that crazy. It basically took over a CENTURY for that law to pass. But think about it, there had to be something to replace slavery…and there has to be something replacing lynchings…(ie: racial profiling – Driving While Black [DWB], prison, police brutality)…. but alas, another post for another day…
After integration, black owned businesses were essentially competing with White owned establishments that now welcomed blacks. Thus, forcing a loss in business for black owned establishments. Only 1/3 of the places originally published in the Green Book are still occupied. Hopefully, in this resurgence of black ownership and entrepreneurial enterprise, people will revive these businesses or create new ones in their place.
As a subsidiary to this movie, “Green Book: Guide to Freedom” by the Smithsonian, gave great insight to the importance of this book. So much so that I actually bought a copy of the 1962 edition of the book. As my interest in traveling grows, I thought it essential to have this piece of history. I look forward to continuing my travels and learning more about my history in the process, and not just during Black History Month.