The Negro Traveler’s Green Book: the Bible of Black Travelers

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, Fall 1956. New York Public Library

The Jim Crow era was a dark time in the history of the United States and for African Americans living during that era, being out and about in the world and navigating the basic logistics of the day to day could itself be a perilous act. Imagine being afraid to go to the store, or walk down a street, or take your family on a trip. African Americans learned what businesses welcomed them, and which did not in their own towns and communities, but imagine being in a new place where you weren’t familiar with the terrain, and the hidden dangers awaiting you simply because of the color of your skin.

For Black drivers during Jim Crow, taking a road trip was complicated and potentially dangerous. But, in 1936 what became known as the “bible of Black Travelers,” came onto the scene, and got African Americans in their cars and on the open road.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was the brainchild of Victor Hugo Green, a postal worker from Harlem, NY, who was sickened by the discrimination he experienced every time he left his neighborhood. Instead of letting it get the best of him, he found a solution. Published from 1936 to 1967, Green’s publication inspired African American travelers to venture out into the world with adventure and less fear.

For cities in each of the fifty states, the guide listed restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that welcomed African Americans, including those in Augusta, Georgia.

The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1947.
New York Public Library

This excerpt from the 1947 publication, shows four local businesses including two hotels, a tourist home, and a liquor store. Like the Augusta City Directories, the “Green Book” is a excellent resource for learning more about African American businesses that operated in Augusta, Georgia during the Jim Crow era. Here’s another from the 1967 publication:

The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1967. New York Public Library

The guides are also filled with advertisements of the businesses listed. Here’s one from 1960 in Alabama:

The Negro Traveler’s Green Book, 1960.
New York Public Library

In 2019, the New York Public Library digitized the entire span of the “Green Book,” and made it freely available to anyone and everyone. In honor of Black History Month, take a look and see what you can find! While you’re at it, get in your car and drive to the addresses listed for the Augusta businesses. What’s there now?

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