Traveling While Black
While the stories featured in this exhibit are wonderful examples of women on the road, they are not all the stories. These collections are not inclusive of all experiences. Many stories are missing. White women of high social standing and class had more freedom and ease to travel.
Black men and women endured restricted mobility on every mode of transportation including boats, buses, rail, and airlines. Automobiles offered only slight increase in freedom. Black travelers were often turned away from hotels, restaurants and other businesses and also had to be ever mindful of the threat of racist violence, including lynching. The landscape was dotted with “sundown towns,” where the presence of people of color was banned after nightfall.
The Green Book, The Negro Motorist Green Book, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, or The Travelers’ Green Book, was a travel guide published during the segregation era in the United States that identified businesses that would accept African American customers. Published from 1936-1966 the guide listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers.
Travelers Research Pub. Co.
The Negro Traveler
Vol. 1, no. 4 (April-May 1945)
Chicago, Illinois: Travelers Research Pub. Co
Established in December 1944, this publication was designed to appeal to the African America tourist and transportation worker. It aimed to help them navigate Jim Crow systems across the country. “The Happy Traveler is a Planner” by Valena Elisabeth Minor examines the rules for women traveling so “they may be least conspicuous and most comfortable.”
DeGolyer Library, Pamphlet Collection, HD8039.T72 U456
Part of the Richards C. Overton collection
Traveling Black: a story of race and resistance
Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2021
Author Mia Bay explores “What was it like to travel while Black under Jim Crow.” She includes in her work stories of travel on the rail, bus, and airline and shows why access to unrestricted mobility has been central to the Black freedom struggle since Reconstruction.
DeGolyer Library, General Collection, E185.61.B288 2021
Candacy A. Taylor
Overground railroad: the Green Book and the roots of Black travel in America
New York: Abrams Press, 2020
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. Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. Author Candacy A. Taylor examines the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment.
DeGolyer Library, General Collection, E185.61.T225 2022
Gretchen Sullivan Sorin
Driving while Black: African American travel and the road to civil rights
New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 
Mobility has always been limited, if not impossible, for African Americans. Restrictions on movement carried over into Reconstruction and beyond. In Driving While Black, Gretchen Sorin reveals how the car, a symbol of independence and possibility, held particular importance for African Americans, as it allowed black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. At the heart of Sorin’s story is Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book, a travel guide begun in 1936 that allowed black Americans to join in that most basic American rite, the family vacation. Driving While Black charts how the automobile fundamentally reshaped African American life.
DeGolyer Library, General Collection, E185.61 .S667 2020