For Adults

Travel History and Oscar Winner: Green Book

03/01/2019 | Black History, History

The Negro Motorist Green Book 1948 CoverThe Green Book, a travel guide, was published by Victor H. Green, a New York postal worker, between 1936 – 1966. The sample on the left is from 1948. The Green Book guides included a list of accommodations, restaurants, and other businesses that were willing to serve travelers of color. The sample page on the right is the listing for Indianapolis in 1948.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this type of guide was indispensable for people of color if they wanted to locate welcoming places to stop for food, sleep, or purchase gasoline for their vehicles while traveling on the road. Up until 1964, essentially, if you were African American and wanted to travel to another town or state for work, to visit your family, of for any other aspiration, you probably owned a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book or The Green Book. You couldn’t simply grab a map, load up the old Ford, and hightail it out of town on the open road. No, you had to plan your trip accordingly utilizing the safest known routes for a person of color.

The Negro Motorist Green Book 1948 Zoom to Indianapolis

Along the way, you also had to be mindful of ‘Sundown Towns’ otherwise you’d find yourself in a serious predicament that would be highly unlikely to end in your favor. Sundown Towns were predominantly white communities implementing local discriminatory rules or laws preventing non-whites from visiting and living in a specific town after nightfall. Enforcement of these laws and rules consisted of, but were not limited to, blatant intimidation and out-and-out violence.

If you’re not familiar with Sundown Towns or just want to learn more about the ‘Green Book’, you can:

  • Delve into actual copies of The Green Book for Motorists online at the Digital Public Library of America: The Negro Motorist Green Book 1937 - 1951.
  • Look at the list below to find books, both fiction and non-fiction, about families of color and their travels before 1964.

Other Resources:


2019 Oscar Winner: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay

When Tony Lip, a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on a book to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African Americans. Confronted with racism and danger, as well as unexpected humanity and humor, they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

As part of the IndyPL Lawrence Branch 2019 Travel, History, and Popular Culture Series, the movie “Green Book” will be shown on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 10:15 am.

Be sure to check out your copy of the other 2019 Oscar Winners from the 91st Academy Awards!

Learn More about Sundown Towns & the Green Book

Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, starring two-time Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, was released on November 21, 2018. The film is set during an agonizing time in the history of humans in the United States, the year 1962. If you want to learn more about the 'Green Book', check out this list.

Ruth and the Green Book

Ramsey, Calvin A

Ruth and her parents are on a road trip from Chicago to Alabama. They must rely on the "The Negro Motorist Green Book" to travel safety to their destination. Target audience is grades 3-4.

Sundown Towns

A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

Loewen, James W.

Provides a history of Sundown Towns in the USA.

Remembering Jim Crow

African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South

Reflections on the history of discriminatory laws and the effects on impacted African Americans living in the the south.