Credit: Danielle Moodie-Mills
For 30 years, a New York City mailman by the name of Victor Green wrote and distributed the Green Book—a travel guide for African American motorists. Now, to be clear, this was not your average AAA guide or a Zagat’s providing the “hot spots” to travel, this was in actuality a life saver for Black folks during the heights of segregation in the United States, from 1936-1966.
The Green Book helped Black travelers navigate the dangers and constant humiliations that racial segregation posed. The book included everything from gas stations that would serve African Americans to restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons and safe places to stay. So, how is it that a book that was in circulation for three decades is relatively unknown today?
Author and playwright Calvin Ramsey is currently working to make sure that Victor Green and his efforts to keep black motorists safe are as well-known as Rosa Parks with his latest project, The Green Book Chronicles.
Discrimination is a poison and that’s why we need joy in spite of it all. There was no internet back then to get the green book, this was put together with love from Black people for each other to keep each other safe. The Green Book to me was a love letter of sorts. There was a time when we loved each other so much that we would open our homes just to keep another Black person safe. You could be a superstar, a singer, an artist and in those days still have no place to stay, eat or bathe while on the road, so this book was about the love and ability to preserve our dignity.” Ramsey says.
Another interesting part of the Green Book was the first message written by Victor Green telling Black travelers to be respectable and to act as ambassadors of the Black community. “Back then it mattered how you looked. For some if you dressed well you may be treated a little better, not always, but sometimes. However, nowadays this doesn’t seem to matter. You should be respectable and treat others with dignity; but that alone isn’t enough. To do it just because you think it will protect you… it won’t now. Back then it worked some; but people were still being lynched,” Ramsey laments.
A love letter indeed. It makes you wonder just how many more Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Green’s we have yet to learn about—who worked tirelessly to keep the Black community safe, educated and above all else loved. Thanks to Mr. Ramsey we can add another Black hero to our lists of those to celebrate and cherish.
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