The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America
The first book to explore the historical role and residual impact of the Green Book, a travel guide for black motorists
Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America.” At that time, it was very dangerous and difficult for African-Americans to travel because black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America.
Praise For Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America…
— Brent Leggs
— The New York Times Book Review
— The Los Angeles Times
— National Geographic
— The Economist
— The New York Post
— Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
— BookPage, STARRED review
— The Daily Beast
— Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Overground Railroad is an extraordinary reckoning with the America that whites have always believed existed, and with the America that blacks actually experienced, navigated, and made theirs despite every barrier.”
— Heather Ann Thompson
— David Levering Lewis
— William Julius Wilson
— The Atlantic
Abrams Press, 9781419738173, 360pp.
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Throughout the book, what were the most common images or stories you associated with “driving while black”? How does the author’s description align with or differ from those images or stories?
2. Discuss the book’s title and how the dangers on the modern roads of the Green Book era (circa 1934–1970) were the same or different from the Underground Railroad during the slavery era.
3. The author presents Green Book publisher, Victor Hugo Green, in heroic terms, stating that the guide’s longevity and success stem from his “vision, grit, creativity, and stamina.” Was he a hero? Should he be regarded as important a publisher as John H. Johnson of Ebony and Jet magazines?
4. Why do you think the Green Book lasted for decades, outlasting all of the other travel guides for African American people?
5. The author states that “given the violence that black travelers encountered on the road, the Green Book was an ingenious solution to a horrific problem.” What other solutions could have been possible?
6. Of the many sites mentioned from the Jim Crow era, very few of them are still in existence. On the subject of integration, Florida activist Georgia Ayers states, “We got what we wanted, but we lost what we had.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
7. The author helps readers make connections between white supremacy and government policies that impacted the lives of Black people. How have times changed or remained the same?
8. In what ways are current travel restrictions to African American people similar to those that are represented in the book? In addition to the dangers of “driving while black” and being stopped by the police, what other kinds of discrimination did Black people experience? How are these discriminatory practices still evident in today’s society?
9. Why do you think the author used her stepfather’s experiences to relay the dangers of travel for African American people? How did his life experiences parallel the broader historic experiences that Taylor discusses throughout the book?