- Aug 28, 2015
For African American travelers, much of the U.S. could be a hateful and dangerous place, even into the 1960's.
Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were thousands of so-called “sundown towns,” including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.
So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.
The images below come from the New York Public Library, which recently digitized 21 volumes of the Green Book, from 1937 to 1964. (You can click on the covers to enlarge.)