It’s Chicago 1949, you and your family have survived World War II, rather it was from military duty or at home dealing with LIFE’s ups, downs, twists, and turns.
I’ll let you decide but…
With all things considered, you’re doing pretty well for yourself. So well, you decide to purchase a car for the family and hit the open road the 1st day of summer. Most of your friends have traveled out west in search of better opportunity, so finding somewhere to stay while you’re out there would not be a problem. The family is so excited that they’ve been packed for weeks. You all head out early morning packed with all the necessities. After all, its going to be a long journey from Chicago to California. You hit the road on Route 66, the Mother Road. You have been driving for hours and it is getting pretty late, so you decide to take a stop.
You reach in your glove compartment….
Nothing…It’s not there!!
Now depending on where you fall on the color spectrum, this mistake could be FATAL! During a time when everyone was moving freely, thanks to the automobile, if you were Black, it wasn’t so easy. The misconception is that it was only in the south.
In fact, it was hard to find anywhere in the United States that did not enforce the separation of black people. The only difference is that in the South it was enforced by signs, the further out west you traveled, anything could happen. People would actually come up missing!!
I guess it really was the… Wild Wild West!
Route 66 offered freedom and an open road. It was the quickest and most direct route from Chicago to California, passing through 8 states and 3 time zones. It didn’t help matters that 6 of those states had segregation laws and was scattered with many “Sundown” towns.
What are “Sundown towns?”
Basically…. towns where if caught after dark, and not of the fairer complexion, it could mean something far more worse then a speeding ticket. Majority of these towns were located in Illinois.
There has to be some type of work-around for this problem? In walks this smooth brother here! I would imagine he had to be smooth, to be a postal worker. Victor Hugo Green, a black 44 year old postal worker from Harlem,NY. Obviously accustomed to some of the problems that posed for the Black Traveler, created in 1936…
The Negro Motorist Green Book
A travelers guide in New York that gave the Black Traveler a guide on where to find gas and places to spend the night. If there were no hotels in the area, he provided “tourist homes” where families would rent to travelers. Even offering cash himself, for information on the places that was acceptable of the “Black Traveler.” In the guide he offered insight on the “black dollar” and encouraged other facilities to see the benefit and open their doors. Esso Standard Oil Company, one of the few gas company’s that offered franchises to blacks, was a major distributor, selling copies in their stations. This helped the“Bible of the Black Traveler” become a household name along with printing around 15,000 copies yearly.
In 1947, Green opened a Travel Agency in Harlem that booked travel plans with black owned establishments. What a coincidence!? By 1950 the guide was renamed The Negro Travelers Green Book and expanded to include the entire US, Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada adding to list nightclubs, restaurants, barber and beauty-shops, drugstores, etc. Green dreamed of an all inclusive place where people could go an come as they please. He died before his dream was realized in 1960. Just 4 years before The Civil Rights Act of 64, prohibiting discrimination in public places. Green’s wife continued publication until 1966. There wasn’t much need if segregation was now illegal. The doors were kicked down!!
It was only fitting that I celebrate the ultimate Travel Outlier. In a time where the luxury of something so simple as traveling was given to most but not all, Green figured out a way, a safer route. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across him. I thought I had an “original idea” ha…. but it is ironic so many years later I am still encouraging the same thing. Why do you think that is? Drop a comment!! I’m always interested in old places and knowing the back story. So because you’re an Outlier like me, I’m sure your interested in some of the locations in Green’s guide.
Check out The Negro Motorist Green Book ed 1949
There was a drugstore in my area. It’s not there anymore, but it was still cool to find where it was. If you happen to find somewhere in your area, tell me about it. Be The Travel Outlier I know you are!!!