The Negro Motorist Green Book

What comes to mind when you hear “road trip”? Joyfully cruising down a highway flanked by incredible scenery, stopping to eat or check into a hotel whenever and wherever you like, discovering hidden gems along the way? You can explore some significant aspects of American travel history through The Negro Motorist Green Book at the Washington State History Museum this spring. 

When the first Green Book was published in 1936, the American road was a metaphor for freedom. Yet, in 20th century America, this same road was a dangerous place for Black citizens. The land was divided by segregation—through policy or through custom. If you were Black, the prejudice was severe: a systematic effort to deny access to your basic human rights. And yet, African Americans created destinations and strategies that affirmed their humanity, and took to the roads with ingenuity, with community, and with the help of a Harlem postman named Victor Green.

“The Green Book” travel guide was created by Victor Green to provide African American travelers with critical information on restaurants, gas stations, stores, accommodations, and other businesses that welcomed Black travelers during the era of Jim Crow and “sundown towns.” This multimedia experience highlighting the national guide’s rich history was created by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service and curated by Candacy Taylor, a leading Green Book scholar and award-winning author, photographer, and documentarian.

Museum visitors will be transported to a time when, as a Black person, it took bravery and a Green Book to travel safely. It’s a dynamic experience shared through photographs, art installations, interactives, historic objects, and oral histories from travelers and Green Book business owners.  It also focuses on the vibrant parallel world of African American businesses, the rise of the Black leisure class, and how The Green Book facilitated the second wave of the Great Migration. 

Motor over to Tacoma to explore the Green Book!

Washington State History Museum