The Schomburg Center Invites the Public to Explore Victor Hugo Green and The Green Books

 

 

 

Image via The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture ~ This incredible collection is available online. We scrolled through several of the books, recognizing many of the businesses. 

While The Green Book has been very much in the news this year, with The Museum of Arts & Design’s exhibition by artist Derrick Adams entitled Sanctuary and Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America, along with the about-to-be released movie, Green Book, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture houses the full digital collection of Green Books and other similar guides. This week Maira Lirano, the Schomburg Center’s Associate Chief Librarian, gave a brief history of Victor Hugo Green and The Green Book in a Q&A Press Call.

Let’s take a ride…..

The Negro Motorist Green Book: 1948 courtesy The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Green Book, a guidebook for black Americans, was published by New York postal worker Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the Jim Crow era in America as a way for working-class African-Americans to pursue the American Dream of travel before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Best said by the Editor, “Hence we have filled one of our life’s ambitions, to give the Negro a travel guide that will be of service to him, by this method we have established ourselves in the minds of the traveling public. The GREEN BOOK is known from coast to coast as the source of information for travel and vacation” (Victor H. Green, Editor & Publisher ~ The Negro Travelers’ Green Book: 1955 International Edition).

The Negro Motorist Green Book: 1937 courtesy The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Green Book was the bible of every Negro highway traveler in the 1950s and early 1960s. You literally didn’t dare leave home without it.” 
Earl Hutchinson Sr., considered the oldest Black American to Pen a Memoir. He was 96 when the book was published in 2000.” Reported by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Los Angeles, California: Middle Passage Press, 2000 in “A Colored Man’s Journey Through 20th Century Segregated America.”
Covers of The Negro Motorist Green Book published by Victor H. Green: 1940, 1956, and 1962. Public access via the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, New York Public Library
Participants on the Press Call had a flurry of interesting and insightful questions ~ Were there other travel guides of this nature? The in-depth answer was yes, the Hackley & Harrison Guide was short lived due to the Great Depression and the death of Mr. Hackley ~ A letter from Sadie D. Harrison to W.E.B. Du Bois dated April 26, 1933, recommended “Hackley and Harrison’s Hotel and Apartment Guide for Negro tourists.” Several other short-lived guides were mentioned as well.
Questions were asked regarding the soon-to-be-released movie, Green Book, and its authenticity, and ~ what would a Green Book 2018 look like today?
Photo of Victor H. Green from the 1956 edition of The Travelers’ Green Book ~ The Negro Travelers’ Green Book: Fall 1956 courtesy Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

We cannot close this post without recording this thoughtful and hopeful quote by Victor Green, read to us by Ms Lirano, “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. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.” (Green Book, 1948. p. 1)”

A page of advertisements in The Negro Motorist Green Book: 1937 courtesy The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

This timely short lecture and Q&A was initiated by the Schomburg – holder of the largest collection of Green Books – to bring to the public hands-on access to the contents of these historic books.

We turned to p.28 to see Restaurants, Taverns, Hotels, Beauty Parlors, Taverns, Garages ~ in NYC! in the Negro Motorist Green Book: 1940, courtesy The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The Schomburg’s full digital collection of Green Books can be found here. They are in the public domain and can be freely downloaded to be used in stories with the proper credit.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library, is a free public resource with over 11 million items related to the experiences of people of African-American descent around the World. It is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street in Harlem.

 

 

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