The Green Book Helped Black Motorists Survive America’s Highways During Jim Crow

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Pixabay/Courtesy of HarperCollins/Library of Congress

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Pixabay/Courtesy of HarperCollins/Library of Congress

Road trips with my family were always adventurous while I was growing up. They served as miniature portals to other worlds where I could gather stories of cultures and livelihoods outside my own. I could experience a quick sampling of a series of alternative realities as an observer in a lengthy car ride.

On our regular trips to the Smoky Mountains, Florida beaches, Disney World, or Nickelodeon Studios, my brother and I lived the best lives that kids could from the backseat. We brought toys, played games, and drank Kool-Aid Bursts or Mondo Squeezers that were packed in the cooler with the rest of the food. Our innocence was centered around each pasture of cows we’d come across or typical, petty sibling fights that ensued because one of us always invaded the other’s personal space.

Despite being born two decades after national protests against Jim Crow laws during the Civil Rights movement, our innocence while traveling dwindled. As the years went on, our trips changed. We became more aware of the small towns we’d pass through, where our parents would not stop to let us grab food or use the restroom—even towns just 30 minutes away from where we lived. My brother—five years older than me—started driving first, and the family always took an anxious pause whenever he was pulled over by a cop or prepared to drive off to college in Tennessee.

Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance by Alvin Hall details the origin of The Negro Motorist Green Book and provides an intricate timeline of racial segregation in America. In the midst of being separate, and certainly not treated as equals, Black Americans had to find a

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