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Traveling While Black – THE GREEN BOOK GUIDE TO FREEDOM #BlackHistoryMonth

Please understand that being black is a state of being. It’s not a cloak that you can cover yourself with. You can’t put it on nor can take it off. It’s not even a mindset. No human can choose it, it’s what the universe has chosen for you and then you live within it.

I am black. Today. Yesterday. And Everyday. Blackness isn’t a type of vernacular. It’s not a social construct. It’s not a style, it’s not a dance, it’s not a habit, nor is it a movement. Blackness is the woven intricacies of a person’s DNA.  When you take society and stereotypes out of the equation when defining blackness, you get a powerful culture.

The Green Book Documentary

The Green Book documentary explores blackness in a way that provides the viewer a glimpse into the life experiences of a person living in America while traveling black. The documentary tells the viewer the history and the necessity of a black travel guide in the early part of the twentieth century American way of life.

The Author of the Green Book

As a viewer, I developed an admiration for Victor Hugo Green a postal worker in New York City who had enough foresight to think of others outside of himself. For Victor to spend time to craft, research, and publish a book that proved valuable and even critical, for the lives of black travelers, was innovative at the time.  The first travel guide (The Negro Motorist Green Book) was published in 1936 and the publications continued through 1966 during the heart of the American Civil rights Movement and two years after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Historical Context

The Green Book’s position in history is significant to me because seventy-three years after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation some black people in America were apart of America’s Middle Class. There were many doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and preachers and various other professionals that were doing well enough that they could travel in their own cars and even take vacations throughout the United States.

 I found the story fascinating because given the historical context, Green’s guide entered black communities less than ten years after the Great Depression and three years before the start of World War II. These guides didn’t just provide information about save places for blacks to book lodging, meals at restaurants, beauty shops, pharmacies, clubs, gas stations, points of interest etc. It was a survival guide that should be understood as an important part of Black American History.

The Green Book Guide to Freedom NMAAHC Screening

My 3 favorite parts of the documentary were:

  • The acknowledgment of numerous black female entrepreneurs
  • Real family recorded movie reels
  • Facts within the documentary laid out in story form so viewers get an understanding of the context of the books as it relates to time and history.

Thank you Yoruba Richen, the documentary’s filmmaker, for helping bridge the gap between the history of our past and the legacy of entrepreneurship of black in American that we must maintain today.

 In short, the prevalence and significance of Victor’s Green Book should never be forgotten.

Tune in

The Documentary will air on the Smithsonian Channel Monday, February 25, 2019 8/7c

Live Discussion Hosted by Comcast NBC Universal

February 5, Comcast hosted a pre-screening of the documentary at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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