Victor Hugo Green created, The Negro Motorists Green Book, a travel guide for African-Americans, in a time of hostility and lawful segregation in America. Green, a postal employee and travel writer, resided in Harlem, New York, he recognized the necessity to create a road map for Blacks to safely traverse America. The Green Book identified gas stations, hotels and restaurants that would serve Black people, as regularly Blacks were denied service, while also facing sanctioned violence, rampant in America, making travel an actual life threatening endeavor.
Green compiled his extensive research and data, creating catalogs of information Black people utilized to literally survive while traveling. Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Becky Wible Searles are working on a documentary, The Green Book Chronicles, weaving together personal interviews, and mixed media animation for what looks to be a searing, regal connection to the history of Black excellence in the core of creation for Victor Hugo Green’s brilliant survival guide.
Yoruba Richen, a documentary filmmaker, shares the experiences of Black business owners who were listed in the Green Book and accounts of Black families who planned their travels based on its recommendations in her film, The Green Book Guide To Freedom, which is currently airing on the Smithsonian Channel. Richen explores the rich history of the essential books written by Victor Hugo Green, with a dive into history, which includes Black women and men, who were entrepreneurs, building hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. The documentary illuminates the connection between Black owned businesses, and the civil rights movement through the people who actually lived it. The Green Book Guide To Freedom spotlights celebrities of the time, like Nat King Cole, who performed for white audiences however, was not permitted to dine with them.
It is not hyperbole to say travel for Black people in America could be hazardous to your health, with life threatening occurances, as there was the real possibility of being lynched, as not all Americans enjoyed safe passage while getting their kicks on Route 66. The Negro Motorists Green Book was published, 1936 – 1967, it was the survival guide Black people depended upon when they hit the road. Driving while Black continues to be a dangerous undertaking for Black people, as America still has regions reminiscent of Sundown Towns.
“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.” Victor Hugo Green