‘The Negro Motorists Green Book’: A Guide To Driving While Black

- By Bossip Staff

Y’all ever heard of ‘The Negro Motorists Green Book?’ ‘The Green Book’ for short, was the black person’s travel guide back in the day and it included all the unwritten rules of the road. Created as a daily tool to cope with racism, blacks described it as “a guidebook that told you not where the best places were to eat…but where there was any place.”

For almost three decades beginning in 1936, many African-American travelers relied on a booklet to help them decide where they could comfortably eat, sleep, buy gas, find a tailor or beauty parlor, shop on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls, or go out at night. In 1949, when the guide was 80 pages, there were only five recommended hotels in Atlanta.

A Harlem postal employee and civic leader named Victor H. Green conceived the guide in response to one too many accounts of humiliation or violence where discrimination continued to hold strong. Black travelers never knew where they would be welcome so they referenced ‘The Green Book.’ Those who needed to know about it knew about it, but to much of the rest of America it was invisible.

Historians of travel have recognized that the great American road trip — seen as an ultimate sign of freedom — was not that free for many Americans, including those who had to worry about “sunset laws” in towns where black visitors had to be out by day’s end.

For a large swath of the nation’s history “the American democratic idea of getting out on the open road, finding yourself, heading for distant horizons was only a privilege for white people,” said Cotton Seiler, the author of “Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America.”

During family trips, Blacks would often pack a big lunch so they didn’t have to worry about having to stop somewhere that might not serve them. In addition to hotels, the guide often pointed them to “tourist homes,” privates residences made available by their African-American owners.

So the next time you head out to Bike Week, Spring Break or Freak Fest, think about what a luxury it is to see a rest stop on the road… and actually go to it.


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  • Sydney™

    Wow, I believe I saw a copy of the Green Book during a tour I took this summer of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in downtown Greensboro, N.C. (I highly recommend a visit, particularly to the “Hall of Shame”). I believe our guide told us about the high number of hotels that had segregated bathrooms for black visitors, and the restrooms for black women in one hotel she mentioned were located near the bathroom for black men, unlike the lush lounge that was reserved for white women. Just taking a simple family trip was an arduous ordeal distinguished by race for many African Americans just mere decades ago.

  • Human Racist

    Hell, there are places still like that in Georgia. You go to the NW GA mtns and you would swear you are in a scene from Deliverance.

  • that damn sh#$ disturber

    i thank God i didn’t live back then. i would’ve been swinging from the highest tree!

  • ReALiSt aKa ReALeSt (BiG BaD BoSSiP BuLLy!!!)

    Where are the Uncle Toms and Aunt Tomasinas???

    • http://perryone779@yahoo.com rose by any other name # 93040266

      Hopefully gone the fu-k away for good!!

  • http://www.myhairparadise.com www.myhairparadise.com

    I’m glad that I didnt live back then either…..Want to get your hair styled for free? Check out myhairparadise dot com for more details

  • Sydney™

    Another object that struck me at the Greensboro civil rights museum was a two-sided Coca-Cola machine that dispensed beverages separately to black and white consumers. Even some vending machines during a certain era were constructed within racial constraints — and I believe, not surprisingly, that the side of the machine used by blacks charged more. I’d never seen anything like it — just another reminder of how race permeated every single aspect of life, even purchasing a beverage, for brothers and sisters.

    • Hugh T Wallace

      I have a vintage coke vending machine. I just heard about the two sided vending machine from my wife. She and her fellow teachers visited the Greensboro museum last week. Just the idea lessens coke in my eyes.

  • BBBEE25

    True I was wondering about this guide because the mason-dixon line still exists today.

  • Mama X

    That’s Deep.

  • chaka1

    South Beach in Miami has a notorious history for NOT being a welcome destination for African-Americans. It’s surprising it’s such a popular place for blacks to vacation now.

  • juliemango

    Good historical info. 2 kno!!!

  • Sanriobaby =^.^=

    It’s a sad reminder of how bad life used to be, but a reminder that if society was capable of such hate and ignorance before, life can be that way once again for any minority. That’s why hate can’t be tollerated on ANY LEVEL.

  • Luv2sail

    There are places like that in Fontana, Ca! It’s heart-breaking. I wish our youth would wake-up and realize what is going on right before their eyes…. Thanx BET, RAPPERS (not hip-hop artist) and all the other media outlets who make it a point to flood ‘our’ market with non-QUALITY programming. And now I regress. wheeew..lol


    WOW!!! I will try to get a copy of that for educational purpose for my kids.

  • Lovelybubbly

    Hey there are places nowadays that are hostile to blacks they just don’t say it openly. I have shopped at stores that give you a look that your not welcomed there, been in areas that you can tell blacks aren’t welcomed especially in wealthy areas you really see it.

    • KANDI

      yes, like being told how much something cost as if you cannot read the price tag

  • ByrdLady

    There are numerous places in Oklahoma that are still very prejudiced. And, by reading some of these posts, we may still need the Green Book today.

    • StopKiddingYourself


  • Tigerlily212

    Very interesting and good to know. I can’t imagine living back then but much respect to our ancestors that carried those crosses. Let it be a reminder since they say history repeats itself. I think it’s important for people to be mindful so that we don’t get too comfortable.

  • miss all that

    Blacks still pack lunches during trips, and the only way they will come visit another state is if a family member has a house they can stay at. The green book is geneticly inherited from our ancestors

  • lily(bk's finest)

    We have been through so much bs, yet we are still here. Much love and respect to all my ancestors for your unwavering fortitude…

  • deegnarls

    these are the reasons why i get pissed off when gay people or activists compare themselves to us…it might be similar in many ways but totally different situations…..gay people don’t have to worry about cops or even segregation…..blacks have to worry about everything discriminatory….

    • Real314

      I agree they are to different situation, yet the bases of both is equal rights, which is why the compare it to civil rights, they want the same civil rights and equal treatment that is afford to the traditional white man…so I agree with gay people and activist on that matter

  • en

    Freedom?There is no freedom in the hood.

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