How did Afro-American travelers overcome segregation laws?

| David Lewis | History



If you were an Afro-American in the US in the 1930s there were many things you could do – attending university (that were not exclusively for Afro-Americans), riding a bus (in the front seat), sitting in a restaurant (at least one that also serves whites), and more.

In addition, there was a de-facto, non-official, restriction on the freedom of movement of African-Americans. Many gas stations, hotels, garages, restaurants, refused to serve them, making a simple vacation a very difficult task. Mind you, any deviation, even the slightest, from the race laws could have cost the Afro-American traveler his life. Stopping in a place that was not defined as safe on the road, even when nature called, was very dangerous and out of the question.

To overcome this, Victor Hugo Green, a Harlem Postal Service employee, published in 1936 a 10-page pamphlet listing New York businesses that served African-Americans and private homes that agreed to host them. The “Green Book for the Black Traveler” soon became a huge success. To expand his scope of work, Green enlisted the help of African-American postal service workers across the United States and asked them to send him a list of places that agreed to serve community members in the places where they lived and worked. “tip”.

By the early 1940s, the “Green Book,” as it became known, encompassed thousands of institutions across the country and soon became the “bible” for the African-American traveler.