The Green Book: An Oscar Best Picture and a real-life guidebook for African Americans

KMBZ News Staff
February 22, 2019 - 12:11 pm

KU / Spencer Library


Kansas City, MO - The Negro Motorist Green Book provided listings across the US where black business was welcomed, helping African American travelers navigate a segregated 20th Century.

The guidebook has served as an inspiration for Green Book, a based-on-real-life movie starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, that just won an Oscar for Best Picture. 

Victor H. Green created the first guidebook in the mid-1930's.  Green was a postal employee and travel writer based in Harlem, New York. 

The Green Book was critical for African Americans to know where they could shop, eat, and grab a motel room without being hassled. 

And they needed to know which towns were "sundown towns" - those towns where they had to leave before dark.

"And there was no way of knowing you were going into a 'sundown town'," says Debra Dandridge, field archivist and curator at the African American Experience at the University of Kansas. "It was kept quiet, places like Pratt, Kansas. So you just kinda had to know."

The Green Book evolved into an opportunity for "African American businesses to promote themselves", says Dandridge. "They would pay for the ads, so that helped it" continue to be published. 


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