Friday, February 17, 2017

The Green Book

Dad fixed up the Brown Bomber -- he even had a record player mounted on the dashboard. Momma had the whole trip planned in her notebook -- right down to what they would eat, where they would eat it, and how long they would stop. The Watson family was on their way to Birmingham.

Cross-country travel during this time was made all the more possible by the new Interstate Highway System. The Watsons could travel all the way from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama along I-75.

As available as roads were in this nationwide network, the freedom to drive cross-country without fear or danger was not made available to everyone.

For African-Americans, driving these roads could be complicated or dangerous. Jim Crow laws and racial segregation meant that black travelers could be refused service at restaurants, gas stations, and motels. Driving through the night could be safer than stopping in an unfamiliar town.

Beginning in the 1930s, Victor Green created a guide to make travel safer for black motorists. This guide, called "The Negro Motorist Green Book" or "The Green Book," listed restaurants, gas stations, and motels that would be safe and welcoming.

This episode of the podcast, 99% Invisible, explores The Green Book and gives some context to what it would be like for the Watson family during their drive south.

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