Posts Tagged ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’

‘Green Book’ was bible for black travelers

September 26, 2010

Sometimes you read about an injustice that you didn’t know about and it just hits you, like, wow, how could that be? I never thought about racism in regards to travel. Duh.

And, sure, I know that race issues in America are far from settled, but thank god there’s no longer a need for “The Green Book.” I read about the travel guide in the New York Times last month. The Green Book was a guide for African-American travelers, listing places they’d be welcome at, from restaurants, to gas stations, to lodging. It was published from 1936 to 1964. (I recall such gay-friendly guides in the 1980s.)

The Green Book, officially “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was started by a postman, Victor Green, and was unofficially distributed at Esso gas stations and other spots. Apparently Esso was the only station to regularly welcome blacks. Can you imagine traveling and not knowing if you’d be allowed to stop for gas? Or food? Or to use the restroom?

Calvin Alexander Ramsey

The Atlanta writer Calvin Alexander Ramsey is bringing the book to light. He’s written a lovely children’s book called “Ruth and the Green Book” (Carolrhoda Books, $16.95 — a perfect gift!), staged a play about the book in DC earlier this month, and he‘s reportedly making a documentary about it.

The Times story said this: “Until he met a friend’s elderly father-in-law at a funeral … Calvin Alexander Ramsey had never heard of the guide. But he knew firsthand the reason it existed. During his family trips between Roxboro, N.C., (near us here in Durham) and Baltimore, “we packed a big lunch so my parents didn’t have to worry about having to stop somewhere that might not serve us,” recalled Mr. Ramsey, who is now 60.

To that I say, wow. And thank you, Mr. Ramsey, for spreading the word, for reminding us of the pain, the fear, and how it wasn’t all that long ago that Americans of a certain color couldn’t travel freely in America.