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Smithsonian Institution

Lighting the Way Where the Way is Dark

Credit: [Outdoor Photo of a Mother, Father and Child Standing by a Car], 1948-1970s. Rev. Henry Clay Anderson. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. © Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Credit: [Outdoor Photo of a Mother, Father and Child Standing by a Car], 1948-1970s. Rev. Henry Clay Anderson. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. © Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Credits: The Negro Travelers' Green Book, 1959. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library.

The Green Book

Started in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Green, The Negro Motorist Green Book was a guide published over three decades that helped African Americans travel the country safely, and with dignity, during a time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. The Green Book was also an indispensable resource for the era’s successful Black-owned businesses and rising African American middle class.

The Exhibition

Credit: [Negro boys on Easter morning. Southside, Chicago, Illinois], 1941. Russell Lee. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00256.

About

The Negro Motorist Green Book — an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian, Candacy Taylor — offers a visually immersive look at the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-20th century America. The Negro Motorist Green Book was more than a travel guide. It was a shield, empowering Black people to explore their world with more dignity than fear, more elegance than embarrassment.

Credit: [Negro boys on Easter morning. Southside, Chicago, Illinois], 1941. Russell Lee. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-00256.
Credit: Courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum.

The Tour

The Negro Motorist Green Book will launch a three-year national tour Oct. 3 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The museum is located at the former Lorraine Motel which was one of many businesses listed in the publication developed by Victor Green. The exhibition celebrates this legacy and will be on view at the Smithsonian Affiliate through Jan. 3, 2021. The Negro Motorist Green Book is made possible through the support of Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Credit: Courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Credit: Photograph courtesy HAL33. CC4.0 International License.

Visit

National Civil Rights Museum

October 2020

As part of its mission, the National Civil Rights Museum examines today’s global civil and human rights issues, provokes thoughtful debate and serves as a catalyst for positive social change.

Carry your "Green Book" with you… You may need it.

— The Negro Motorist Green Book cover

Credit: Smitty's Esso Service Station, Courtesy Anthony M. Smith, Sr.

The Documentary

The Green Book Guide to Freedom

The Emmy-nominated Smithsonian Channel documentary, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom explores some of safe havens included in the travel guide while sharing stories of struggle and indignity as well as opportunity and triumph.

Credit: [Four-young African American women standing beside a convertible automobile], ca. 1958. WANN Radio Station Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication, for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.

— Victor Green
"The Negro Motorist Green Book", 1948 edition

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The Negro Motorist Green Book was created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with Candacy Taylor and made possible through the generous support of Exxon Mobil Corporation.