Travel in America really started to flourish in the mid-20th century, as cars became more common and roads got better. But for many black Americans, traveling wasn’t as easy as picking a destination and hitting the road.
This was the era of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, and there were potential land mines everywhere for black travelers, from hotels and businesses that would turn them away, to “sundown towns,” where being out after dark meant risking arrest, beatings or worse.
To help black Americans navigate these land mines, a postal worker named Victor Hugo Green started publishing a guide for black travelers, originally called the Negro Motorist Green Book, nicknamed the Green Book. It was published almost every year from 1936 to 1966.
This year, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City digitized its entire collection, making the green books accessible to younger generations who have never seen them.
Here & Now’s Indira Lakshmanan talks with Maira Liriano, chief librarian at the Schomburg Center, about the history and evolution of the Green Books.
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