The Green Book, known in full as The Negro Motorist Green Book, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, or The Travelers’ Green Book, was a travel guide published between 1936 and 1967 in the United States to identify businesses that would accept African American customers.
Originally compiled by Victor Hugo Green, a black postman who lived in the Harlem section of New York City, the Green Book listed a variety of businesses – from restaurants and hotels to beauty salons and garages – that were necessary to make travel comfortable and safe for African Americans in the period before passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The first 15-page guidebook documented safe places in metropolitan New York, but demand for the first Green Book was so great that by the publication of the second annual edition in 1937, Green used his involvement with the National Association of Letter Carriers to reach out to postal workers across the country to gather information for a national version of the guide.
During a time when many US states imposed ‘Jim Crow’ laws, forbidding people of different races from mingling – and when Klansmen often patrolled dark roads and could literally get away with murder – the Green Book offered a way to sidestep humiliation and danger.
The Green Book received special support from Esso (the forerunner of Exxon), largely owing to the efforts of James Jackson, the first African American to work for the company as a marketing specialist.
One of the few American companies that allowed African Americans to buy franchises, Esso sponsored the Green Book and sold it in its gas stations.
Victor Green died in 1960, four years before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act greatly reduced the need for the Green Book, which ceased publication in 1967.