A Midcentury Travel Guide for African-American Drivers Navigating Jim Crow

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 11 2013 11:00 AM

A Midcentury Travel Guide for African-American Drivers Navigating Jim Crow

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was a guide that helped African-American travelers identify friendly hotels, restaurants, and mechanics when they were on the road.  Harlem postal employee and publisher Victor H. Green published the Book annually from 1936 to 1964.

As historian Cotton Seiler points out, the Green Book flourished during a time when cars were getting cheaper, and travel by automobile was becoming more common. For black drivers, however, freedom of the road had its limits. These travelers had to navigate segregated accommodations, couldn’t join AAA, and received disproportionate levels of attention from the police and local racists.

Advertisement

This 1949 edition of the Green Book contained a message from an outreach representative of Esso Standard Oil; a feature story on Robbins, Ill. (a town “OWNED AND OPERATED BY NEGROES”); and listings of friendly businesses by state. (You can read a full PDF here.)

Green wrote in his introduction to this edition: “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published…It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.” And indeed, soon after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Green Book ceased publication.

Architectural historian Jennifer Reut is mapping the locations of the businesses represented in the Green Book. She’s collecting stories related to the publication, and to African-American automobile travel during Jim Crow, here.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.