In 1936, Hugo Green, a postal worker in Harlem, published his first "Negro Motorist Green Book," a guide to the places that black travelers could eat, sleep, gas up, and be physically present and alive without being discriminated against, harassed, threatened, beaten or murdered.
The guides were an essential part of black life in America until the 1960s. They are available online thanks to the New York Public Library's excellent public domain repository, and they feature heavily in Matt Ruff's must-read 2016 novel "Lovecraft Country" (it's being adapted for TV by Jordan "Get Out" Peele).
Now the guides are available in print again, thanks to facsimile editions from About Comics, a California press owned by Nat Gertler.
The books have sold more than 10,000 copies since they were published in 2016.
The Green Book was sold through mail order and in service stations – specifically Esso branches, as a note in About Comics’ edition explains: “Esso not only served African American customers, it was willing to franchise its stations to African Americans, unlike most petroleum companies of the day.”
In a foreword to one edition of his guide, Green wrote: “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.”
Green died in 1960. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
The Negro Motorist Green Book facsimile editions [Victor H Green/About Comics]
Travel guides to segregated US for black Americans reissued [Alison Flood/The Guardian]