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Jim Crow Travel Guides

February 11, 2016

To think that such guides were needed to promote safe travels for blacks in this nation should make us all feel a sense of shame.

“There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” reads the introduction to the 1949 edition of The Green Book. The travel guide listed bars, restaurants, hotels, and other places in America where black travelers would be welcomed.

Victor H. Green, a post office worker, teamed with his contacts in the Postal Workers Union, all around the country, to compile The Green Book, which aimed to help black travelers navigate around the dangers they faced on the road during the most intense period of segregation in the 20th century. 

The need for a travel guide specifically tailored to African-Americans arose during the Jim Crow era, when the consequences of entering a “whites only” space ranged from having the door slammed in one’s face to being assaulted or even lynched. The first edition of The Green Book was published in 1936, the last one in 1966.

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