What is the Green Book?

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The film Green Book won 3 Golden Globe awards this week. The movie title refers to an essential guide for African-American travelers, who often encountered segregation and discrimination throughout their journeys. The guide was created by a postal worker named Victor H. Green (the covers of the books were also green) and was published yearly from 1936 to 1967. According to the introduction to the 1948 edition, “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” (p.1).

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book: Fall 1956: The Guide for Travel & Vacations, from the NY Public Library

The “Green Book” started out as a guide for New York, but soon expanded to cover hotels, restaurants, and other establishments nationwide. By the 1960s, it even covered international destinations. The guide was available at Esso gas stations; Esso/Standard Oil, which later became Exxon, helped Green publish the directory. The guide was also available by mail order and at many public libraries.

“What is the Green Book and where can I find a copy?” is a reference question we got at Hunter Library about 10 years ago–well before the movie, the Wikipedia entry, or this excellent article were created. Luckily, the University of Michigan had digitized a copy from the Henry Ford Museum. Now, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library has most of the set available online for free.

"The Travelers' Green Book: 1960"

Further Reading:

“The Green Book: The Forgotten Story of One Carrier’s Legacy Helping Others Navigate Jim Crow’s Highways” The Postal Record. September 2013, 22-25. https://www.nalc.org/news/the-postal-record/2013/september-2013/document/09-2013_green-book.pdf

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander, and Gwen Strauss. Ruth and The Green Book. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2010 (children’s book).

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