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Don’t take your road trip for granted

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It’s summer vacation season and for many of us, that means “road trip.” As recently as the 1960s, however, African American motorists traveling in America were often guaranteed less-the-welcome receptions in many parts of the country. Traveling could be downright dangerous.

In 1936, a postal worker and activist named Victor H. Green took matters into his own hands and started publishing “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” “The Green Book,” along with similar publications, acted as guidebooks, identifying safe zones and “tourist homes” – private houses where African Americans could spend the night while on the road. Calvin Alexander Ramsey, whose play “The Green Book” features a couple spending the night at the house of a Holocaust survivor, remembers traveling with his parents between Baltimore and Roxboro, North Carolina and having to pack a huge picnic lunch in order to avoid any risky stops.

Green published the last issue of his book in 1964, but these travel experiences continue to be within the living memory of many African Americans.


Do you have experiences of traveling or hosting African Americans pre-segregation? How much have things actually changed?


Isabel Wilkerson is the author of "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration." She's also a former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner

Nsenga Burton, contributor to The Root