Green Books: Travel Guides for African Americans

A recent PBS story drew attention to the series of "Green Books" that guided African Americans through segregated America, between 1936 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. As Maria Goodavage noted in that story, the 1949 edition carried the quotation from Mark Twain, "heartbreaking in this context," that “Travel is fatal to prejudice.” A 2010 article in the New York Times explores the guides and their inspiration for Calvin Alexander Ramsey to write both a play and a children's book, Ruth and the Green Book.

These "Green Books" ~ not to be confused with the guide books of the same name published, as early as the 1920s by the Scarborough Motor Guide Co., for the American Legal Association (ALA) ~ were created by Victor Green (1892-after 1964) and was first published under the title, The Negro Motorist Green Book. Copies of the 1949 and 1956 editions are available online (from The Henry Ford Museum and the University of South Carolina, respectively). Maine receives only a short mention in the 1949 edition (pp. 33-34):

1949 Green Book 33 detail

1949 Green Book 34 detail

(Details from Henry Ford Museum.)

OML does not currently have copies of the "Green Books," but I hope that this will soon change!

Thanks to Richard Auletta for further information about the books.