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The Historical “Green Book”

Traveling with Peace of Mind and Self Respect

Did you know that Dallas has one of the few remaining “Green Book” landmarks that provided a safe haven for African-American travelers, by automobile, in Dallas during segregation? That place is the old Moorland Branch YMCA which is now the home of the Black Dallas Dance Theater right in the middle of Dallas’ Arts District; 2700 Ann Williams Way, Dallas, TX 75201. This building has a state historical marker indicating its legacy.

What is this green book? Many people young and old do not know the history of this book because it is not needed today. But that was not the case during the era of segregation. According the Jacinda Townsend, the author of the article “How the Green Book Helped African-American Tourists Navigate a Segregated Nation, "Traveling by car in the era of segregation, the open road presented serious dangers. Driving interstate distances to unfamiliar locales, black motorists ran into institutionalized racism in a number of pernicious forms, from hotels and restaurants that refused to accommodate them to hostile “sundown towns,” where posted signs might warn people of color that they were banned after nightfall.”

Getting gas or using the restroom could lead to a life or death situation. “It didn’t matter if you were Lena Horne or Duke Ellington or Ralph Bunche traveling state to state, if the road was not friendly or obliging,” according to playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey, you could be in trouble.

Thus the green book. The visionary entrepreneur and creator Victor H. Green, a 44-year-old black postal carrier in Harlem, relied on his own experiences and on recommendations from black members of his postal service union for the inaugural guide bearing his name, The Negro Motorist Green-Book, in 1937.

The green book listed hotels, restaurants and other businesses open to African-Americans, providing a safety net to guide them during their travel, by car, during the Jim-Crow era.

"Not only was the green book beneficial to African-American automobile travelers, they were also indispensable to African-American businesses.", according to Smithsonian curator Joanne Hyppolite.

"There will be a day sometime in the future when this guide will not have to be published," Green wrote in the introduction to multiple editions. "That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication, because then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year."

The Green-Book final edition, in 1966-67, filled 99 pages and embraced the entire nation and even some international cities. This was after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This historical building housing the Black Dallas Dance Theater was also the political headquarters for civil rights planning meetings and a cultural and social center for the black community.

Thank you Dallas for keeping African American history alive.

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