This was the motto printed on the cover of Travelguide, one of a handful of Black travel directories published during the decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when Black travelers routinely faced discrimination when they searched for a place to eat or spend the night.
Articles in The New York Times and Washington Post have highlighted the Green Book, a guide for Black travelers published by New York postal worker Victor Green between 1936 and 1964. Both articles focus on writer Calvin Alexander Ramsey, whose rediscovery of the Green Book a few years ago inspired him to write a play, “The Green Book,” and a children’s story, Ruth and the Green Book.
While the Green Book may have been the longest-lived, it was not the first guide for Black travelers. The Claude Barnett Collection, the papers of the founder of the Associated Negro Press, in History Vault includes copies of several other such directories, including a 1930 edition of Hackley & Harrison’s Hotel and Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers (for “cultured travelers and tourists.”) The Claude Barnett collection also includes editions of Travelguide (1949 and 1952) and Grayson’s Travel and Business Guide (1949). [For readers with access to History Vault, Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century, Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1, search on “Black travel guides” to see these items.]
While intended primarily for a black audience, the guides also served other minority groups. Grayson’s Guide, for example, billed itself as “A National Directory of *Hotels *Cafes *Resorts *Motels, Where Civil Rights are Extended to All.”
Superficially, the guides resemble the familiar AAA guidebooks. Organized alphabetically by state, they provide listings of places to eat, stay overnight, and find entertainment. But the advertisements for resorts, hotels, and travel agencies — that appear between the official listings also open a window into an entire alternative tourism infrastructure that once existed in the United States.
The popularity of automobile travel among a growing Black middle class in the middle decades of the 20th century made such guides indispensable — especially in the Jim Crow South. Travelguide’s motto, “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation,” hints at the indignities that could be encountered almost anywhere in the country.
Speaking several years ago regarding the Green Book on WAMU radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, the late civil rights leader Julian Bond, who played Victor Green in the play “The Green Book,” described the important role of the Green Book, the late civil rights leader Julian Bond, who played Victor Green in the play “The Green Book,” described the important role of the Green Book in his family’s travel plans:
“My mother's family was from Nashville, and we frequently went down there on holidays and summers. …And just the idea of coming to a place and saying, where can I get a sandwich? Where can I get a cool drink? Where can I get anything? …Where can I be treated decently? And this book [the Green Book] was the passport to all of that.”
For researchers interested in looking at these travel guides in the Claude Barnett collection, additional related searches to try are “Discrimination in public accommodations” and “Discrimination in transportation.” An earlier blog post on History Vault resources related to “discrimination in transportation” is also available.
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