Between 1936 and 1966, an unconventional travel guidebook series was published specifically for African-American motorists. The Negro Travelers’ Green Book was sadly necessary to provide Black motorists and travelers with scrupulously accurate information on accommodations, restaurants and auto services during an era when racial segregation was the norm in wide areas of the United States and Jim Crow laws in southern states restricted individual behavior. The Green Book offered motorists a sense of personal safety when they traveled the American roadways.
This unusual travel series was created by Victor H. Green, a New York City postal worker, who frequently traveled to visit family in southern states after a Jewish friend showed him a guidebook used by American Jews to find hotels and restaurants that did not restrict them. Green then developed a network of sympathetic postal workers to help research the new travel guide series for African-Americans.
The Green Book series even presaged the Airbnb and couch-surfing phenomenon, with Black families listing overnight room rentals in homes that welcomed travelers. The guidebook series also included travel advice, photos, advertising by businesses friendly to Blacks, and travel essays.
Victor Green died in 1960, but his annual guide continued to be published until 1966 when anti-discrimination laws limited the need for the series. But over the thirty years of publication, the Green Book grew to cover every region of the United States, parts of Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, European cities, and even areas in Africa.
Now thanks to the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture we can see digitized versions of the rare Green Book collection.