The Green Book

The Green Book, also know as the “The Negro Motorist Green Book”, was created by an African-American, New York City mailman named Victor Hugo Green. It was published from 1936 to 1966, during the era of Jim Crow laws. Throughout this time, discrimination against people of color, specifically African Americans, was conspicuous and often legally backed. Green’s book aimed to aid marginalized groups find inclusive businesses and avoid discrimination, and often danger, on their travels. Segregationist practices meant that facilities for African-American motorists were limited. So, it provided a rundown of hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug stores, taverns, barber shops, and restaurants known to be safe for travelers of color. The book also helped people avoid Sundown Towns, municipalities in which Blacks could not remain after dark.

To be brief about Jim Crow Laws, they began around 1865 after the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. Also known as “Black codes,” these were strict local and state laws that determined when, where, and how formerly enslaved people could work and how much they could be paid.. They were a legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude, take voting rights away, and control where they lived and how they traveled.

Green was likely inspired by earlier publications for Jewish audiences, who also faced discrimination. The first edition the book covered only the New York City area. Soon the book expanded by, brilliantly, gathering field information from fellow postal carriers and readers. In a few years, the Green Book was host to thousands of establishments across the country, all either black-owned or verified non-discriminatory. Eventually, the Green Book expanded from a motorists’ companion to an international travel guide as later editions included information on airline and cruise ship journeys to places like Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe.

Victor Hugo Green died in 1960. His wife, Alma Green, took over as editor and continued to release the book. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act banned segregation in restaurants, theaters, hotels, parks, and other public places rendering the Green Book essentially obsolete, just as Green has hoped would eventually happen.

“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 to 1948 edition of the “Negro Motorist Green Book”

Today, the Green Book is back in the form of an app called The Green Book Project. The app allows users to share their experiences of businesses, filter by intersections, post alerts when things are unsafe, and support inclusive business owners. It is unfortunate that such a thing should have to exist but I’m glad that people are looking out for one another. There is also a effort to save locations mentioned in the Green Book.

AuMaroc, J. How the Green Book Helped African-American Tourists Navigate a Segregated Nation. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2021, from

Jim Crow Laws. HISTORY. (2018). Retrieved 8 March 2021, from

The Green Book Project. The Green Book Project. Retrieved 7 March 2021, from

The Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America. HISTORY. Retrieved 7 March 2021, from

The Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America. HISTORY. Retrieved 7 March 2021, from

The Negro Motorist Green Book. Retrieved 7 March 2021, from

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