Original ‘Green Book’ Inspires New Generation of Black Travel Guides, Podcasts

At a time when the simple act of traveling through the United States often put Black people in physical danger, “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was an essential guide to safe spaces.

Published by Victor Hugo Green annually from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book helped Black travelers in the Jim Crow period find hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses that would serve them.

The Academy Award-winning movie “Green Book” renewed interest in the publication, which had ceased publishing after major civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s. Today, a new generation of authors are illuminating the heritage with new books and a podcast decades after Green’s annual guide stopped publishing.

“The Green Book enabled African Americans to travel with dignity and find safe harbors during a period in U.S. history when the vast majority of white-owned businesses, even in large urban areas, were not welcoming, even hostile, to Black patrons,” said Alvin Hall, host of the Macmillan Podcast series, “Driving the Green Book,” which launched in September.

Establishments in the book, most of them Black-owned, “welcomed not only their dollars but were also genuinely welcoming to them as human beings, an experience that could be hard to find during the days of segregation,” Hall said.

Martinique Lewis, president of the Black Travel Alliance, told USA TODAY that after learning about the Green Book she was inspired to create her own, modern version. Her “ABC Travel Greenbook: Connecting the African Diaspora Globally” which catalogs Black-owned businesses and Black-focused experiences such as tours, among other resources for international travel.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, why have I never heard about this book?’ … I’m like the Black travel guru,” Lewis said, noting she bought every copy of the original Green Books that she could find.

Like its predecessor, Lewis’ book is more than a just a directory of businesses.

“I give paragraphs and I’ll let you know: ‘There’s been this many cases of discrimination (at a given location) that we know about, be alert and be aware,'” Lewis explained.

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