The Green Book was an essential travel guide for African Americans in the Jim Crow era.

The Green Book was an essential travel guide for African Americans in the Jim Crow era.

The Green Book, or to give it its full title, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was first published in 1936. It was a revolutionary publication which listed restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African-Americans.

Traveling during the Jim Crow era was difficult for African Americans. In the South, “black code” laws targeted them for loitering. In many towns, black travelers risked death if they stayed past sundown.

Travelers came up with their own ways to avoid violence and humiliation. One was called ‘The Green Book’ created by Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green. It was an invaluable tool to help black people plan a safe route across the country.

Alvin Hall’s BBC program ‘The Green Book’ documents this little-known aspect of racial segregation.

See Pages From Green Books

The New York Public Library’s digital archives contain scans of several decades of Green Books, all available in the public domain. The data from these books is also available, and researchers have used to it create a virtual trip planner for 1947 and 1956 and a heatmap that shows how the Green Book’s listings area grew over the decades.

The cover of the 1948 Green Book

The cover of the 1948 Green Book

Cover of the 1950 Green Book

The cover of the 1950 Green Book

The cover of the 1956 Green Book

The cover of the 1956 Green Book

The cover of the 1954 Green Book

A hotel ad in the 1960 Green Book

A service station ad in the 1960 Green Book

The foreward from the 1957 Green Book

The first page of a Green Book guide to Los Angeles

A page from a Green Book guide to the Caribbean.

The Lorraine Motel was one of the hotels listed in the most Green Books. This is from a 1962 edition.

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