A project to document Route 66 properties listed in editions of the Negro Motorist Green Book was awarded a 2015 grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
According a release from the foundation, it awarded a total of $490,000 to support 63 projects by individuals “that engage original ideas in architecture.”
One of the recipients was Candacy Taylor’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book Project: Documenting Sites of Sanctuary.” According to the foundation:
This project documents the properties along Route 66 listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was a travel guide published from 1936 to 1964 by Victor H. Green, a black postal worker in Harlem. He featured restaurants, hotels, barbershops, beauty parlors, taverns, garages, and gas stations that served black people during the Jim Crow–era. The Negro Motorist Green Book was an essential travel companion that provided invaluable information, earning the name the “Bible of Black Travel.” This project documents the remaining Green Book sites in Los Angeles County and recognizes their historic value and the role they played in possibly saving people’s lives.
“Saving people’s lives” is not hyperbole. The Green Book was published from 1936 to 1964 during the Jim Crow era. Green stated his book would “give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” Green’s use of the word of “difficulties” was widely understood as a euphemism for “beatings or worse” in certain parts of the country, including Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Although the number of lynchings of black Americans started to decline in the mid-1920s, they continued to the the civil-rights era.
Taylor, an African American author and photographer, has documented Negro Travelers Green Book sites through her Taylor Made Culture website. The goal is to produce an interactive mobile app about the book and sites, along with a traveling exhibit with photography, videos and oral histories.
On a related note, the National Park Service began an effort last spring to document the surviving Route 66 motels that served African-American travelers during the Green Book era.
(Image of the cover of the 1940 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book)