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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Part VI, 1936 Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America and the Freedom Riders

Jim Crow laws and the rise of the KKK in the beginning of the 20th century made any stepping out of Jim Crow culture dangerous. Well into the 20th century, it was dangerous to violate Jim Crow when shopping, traveling or walking in states that had government mandated apartheid.  Even in the North where there was not official government mandated apartheid, Blacks were not spared the discrimination of oppressive Jim Crow culture and faced much discrimination when traveling. Apartheid and Jim Crow culture flourished in many states well into the 20th century, making a dangerous passage for blacks who veered outside of its neighborhoods and cultural sociological boundaries.

The 1936 Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America

For three decades, a guide called The Negro Motorist Green Book first published in 1936, provided Blacks with advice on safe places to eat and sleep when they traveled through the  United States. Jim Crow was still full force in the 20th century. The Negro Motorist Green Book was authored by a Harlem-based postal carrier named Victor Hugo Green who was wearied by  the discrimination he experienced whenever he  ventured outside of his neighborhood

The 1936 Green book provided lists of gas stations, hotels, grocery stores, pharmacies, taverns, barber shops and restaurants that were known to be safe for black travelers. The “Green Book” listed businesses in apartheid states such as Alabama and Mississippi, but it also extended into the North and as far west as California, in any state where a black traveler might face prejudice and/or danger because of his skin color. With Jim Crow still threatening blacks in  much of the country, a motto on the guide’s cover served as a warning: “Carry your Green Book with you—You may need it.”

Three decades after the publishing of the 1936 The Negro Motorist Green Book, the Civil Rights Movement protesting Jim Crow came to a head in the 1960's.

In Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960), the US Supreme Court overturned a judgment convicting Bruce Boyton, a black law student, for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only".

The 1961 Freedom Riders were assaulted in their non-violent attempts to test the 1960 US Supreme Court decision, Boynton v. Virginia. The work of the 1961 Freedom Riders took not only faith but an enormous amount of courage at a great personal sacrifice. More can be read about the 1961 Freedom Riders and their personal sacrifices here. James Farmer was one of the most acclaimed activists, known for being head of the Congress for Racial Equality and for his leading the 1961 Freedom Rides. You may read more about the Freedom Riders here.

The first Freedom Riders, were among the first of more than 400 volunteers who traveled throughout the South on regularly scheduled buses for several months in 1961 to test the  Boynton v. Virginia 1960 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated facilities for interstate passengers illegal. Many of the participants of the Freedom Rides tragically encountered and suffered extreme violence at the hands of others. The Freedom Riders' efforts sparked a summer of similar rides by thousands of ordinary citizens, whites and non-whites, and other Civil Rights leaders.

What You Can Do

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If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.



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