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...There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment...
Introduction page, The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1950 Edition, Victor H Green & Co., Leonia, NJ.

 photo 1950 intro.jpg

From 1936 to 1966, New York City mailman Victor H Green published a guidebook for African American travelers who wanted to visit the United States by car.

These were the Jim Crow years. Although many Americans could not afford cars of their own during the Great Depression, there was a rising middle class of black Americans who could and did purchase cars. Public transportation was fraught with peril for black Americans of all classes. In 1930, the writer George Schuyler said, "all Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult."

Unfortunately, the racial profiling phenomenon "Driving While Black" is not a new thing. White Americans, especially those in the Jim Crow south, often viewed African Americans who owned cars as uppity or trying to rise above their assigned station in life. Black Americans traveling the country for business or pleasure often had great difficulty finding places to stay, eat or enjoy entertainment. If they were permitted entry into a typically "whites only" establishment, their personal safety was often threatened by white patrons or neighbors.

The answer to this for Victor Green was to seek out and accumulate information about hotels, motels, roadhouses, restaurants and other establishments whose owners and operators were friendly and courteous to African Americans. The 1936 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book focused solely on New York City. Subsequent editions were published with the help of "agents" in the states reviewed, who supplied information to Green about accommodations in cities and states outside New York. The last "Green Book" (as they came to be known) was published in 1966, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The New York Public Library has high resolution images of the pages of twenty-three Green Books. They make for fascinating reading and, as seen in the introduction page of the 1950 edition, demonstrate Victor Green's fervent hope that one day, he would be judged on the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

You can access the images at the New York Public Library's website by clicking here.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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