Published from to , the Negro Motorist Green Book listed motels, restaurants, service stations, and other accommodations that served African Americans. Victor H. Green, a New Jersey Postal Worker, created his namesake guide to help black travelers safely navigate the segregated realities of Jim Crow America. Green used his contacts in the postal service, as well as input from traveling salespeople and business owners, to complete the listings.
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The Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America - HISTORY
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The Negro Motorist Green Book (1936-1964)
Over time, as the guide expanded, readers joined postal carriers in submitting listings, making it one of the first African-American travel guides to incorporate user-generated content. Although the actual pages were modest and the listings spartan, inclusion in The Green Book was considered an honor. Green was an idealistic and hopeful man.
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He wrote in the volume: "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. While he lived comfortably, he never made millions, preferring to keep The Green Book's prices low. The final editions contained about pages of listings that covered the entire United States and abroad.
The Green Book's demise is often attributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which rendered its fundamental concept obsolete. In fact, Victor Green had died in , leaving the guide without its driving visionary. But, the increase in Civil Rights activities during the early s raised question as to whether publications like The Green Book undermined the push for full equality. Sales began to erode after the s and The Green Book came to a dignified end in ironically the only issue without a green cover. A key era in African-American travel history came to a close.
‘A book badly needed’
The guide "was developed with a view to contributing a reliable source of information for Negro travelers through the United States. While the idea to publish a travel guide was not new, the build up toward World War II renewed the problem's sense of urgency. The US Travel Bureau Directory acknowledged the plight of African-American soldiers and war-related workers as challenging and problematic.
At the same time, the US Travel Bureau Directory continued the Works Progress Administration's efforts, begun in , to produce national travel guides. In this context, continuing with the usual plan yet addressing the needs of African-Americans specifically made the US Travel Bureau Directory a somewhat subversive product. It also stands out from other travel guides in that it was typewritten and lacked both advertisements and images. In total, the directory contained over listings.
As the title suggests, the listings were limited to housing exclusively. A range of options were presented, from large hotels to rooms in individual homes. The directory also included a list of the Negro branches of the YMCA and the YWCA, noting that "Where there are no rooms or dormitories, the executive office will gladly recommend acceptable stopping places. As the directory's listings are fewer in number and overlap those in The Green Book , it is tempting to conclude that the US Travel Bureau ceded the market to The Green Book , ceasing publication in order to turn its attention to the impending war.
Further research may bear this out. Recreational travel was limited during the war, creating an uneven sales market around the country. At the same time, many African-American soldiers and military workers needed to travel beyond their hometowns for the very first time.
In some cases, massive military mobilization enabled the publication of new African-American travel guides. In others, the war set limits on what could be done. The Green Book , for example, ceased publication between and , due to paper rationing. Unfolding in map-like accordion style, the guide consisted of a cover page and advertisements on one side and a map of the US east of the Mississippi River with coordinating listings on the other. The smaller size made it easy to pack and less expensive to print. But this tidy format came at the expense of space for the actual information.
After earning a degree from the University of Wisconsin in journalism and marketing in , Smith went to work in the advertising department at the AFRO-American in Baltimore. She occasionally wrote about travel, visiting New York City, Atlantic City, and other nearby cities served by the paper along the Eastern seaboard. Through her, the AFRO-American began to make hotel, motel, airplane and train reservations for the newspaper's customers.
As civil rights protests were occurring in the south, the AFRO-American 's readers were frequently reminded about maintaining their civil rights when traveling. The close of World War II saw the development of a new round of African-American travel guides--and a new tone within their pages. The Travelguide , published between and by the Travelguide Company, presented a more assertive tone than had previous guides.
The Travelguide was edited by W. The cover was accented with bright colors and featured photos of attractive, well-dressed, African-American women posing in scenic spots. Production costs were high, forcing Butler to rely more heavily on ads than had previous guides. Another difference from previous travel guides lay in how Butler compiled his listings.
In addition to using NAACP connections, Butler reached out to African-American musicians, who were on the road and consequently well aware of the limitations placed on their travel. Kansas-City based musician Andy Kirk , bandleader for Clouds of Joy and a saxophonist in his own right, helped compile listings while on the road.
The connection came through Kirk's wife, who worked for the Travelguide company. The Travelguide promoted the idea that its readers needed to fight discrimination actively. To that end, the guide included the civil rights laws for each state and the addresses of the NAACP headquarters in each city.
Travelguide readers could learn the histories of prominent black citizens through the guide's " Travelguide Salutes! Clearly, the Travelguide assumed its readers led a particularly cosmopolitain lifestyle--one that musicians like Kirk would have epitomized. Travel guides often had a short life. At present, only one issue of Grayson's Travel and Business Guide , published in in Los Angeles, has been identified.
queprocifgikel.tk As a result, little is known about its length of operation and circulation numbers. The editor of the publication is also unknown, but the image of a well-dressed African-American man accompanying the forward may have been Grayson, himself. Like the Travelguide , Grayson's took a more assertive approach to civil rights, as well as a more open one.
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