a page-turning exhibit
Stirring exhibition spotlighting life-saving travel book for Black Americans motors into Houston
Created in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Hugo Green and published until 1967, The Negro Motorist Green Book provided critical, life-saving information on restaurants, gas stations, department stores and other businesses that welcomed African American travelers during an era of segregation and Jim Crow laws.
Now, it’s mostly known as the book that inspired that cute racism movie that bafflingly won the Best Picture Oscar over Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman. But, in September, a new exhibition at Holocaust Museum Houston will remind people just how important this annual guide was back in the day.
“The Negro Motorist Green Book,” developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor, opens at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Josef and Edith Mincberg Gallery beginning Friday, September 1.
This exhibition, made possible through the support of ExxonMobil (which played a significant role in the book’s distribution through its U.S. network of Esso stations), will offer an immersive look at the reality of safe travel for African Americans during the mid-century.
Victor Hugo Green from “The NegroTravelers’ Green Book,” Fall Edition,1956.Courtesy Schomburg Center for Research inBlack Culture, Manuscripts, Archives, andRare BooksDivision, The New York PublicLibrary
'First day of Memphis integration, TN, 1961,'\u00a0from \u201cThe Negro Motorist Green Book.\u201d
Dr. Ernest C. Withers. Collection of theSmithsonian National Museum of AfricanAmerican History and Culture. (C) Ernest C.Withers Trust
During the exhibit, which runs through Sunday, November 26, ExxonMobil will host Free Family Sundays on the first and third Sundays.
Viewers can gaze upon artifacts such as business signs and postcards to historic footage, images and firsthand accounts to convey the apprehension felt by Black travelers. The exhibit will also illustrate the resilience, innovation and elegance of families striving to live a full life in America.
'The Negro Motorist Green Book' 1940 edition.Courtesy Schomburg Center for Research inBlack Culture, Jean BlackwellHutsonResearch and Reference Division, New YorkPublic Library
It's also meant to bring focus to a vibrant parallel world of African American businesses, the rise of Black leisure class and the important role the guide played in facilitating the second wave of the Great Migration.
Some 115 former, Black travel sites have been identified in Houston, with 13 sites “still standing” and eight of those noted in the book, according to research by the Texas Historical Commission.
One of the most iconic sites on the list is the historic Eldorado Ballroom at Project Row Houses in the Third Ward, which recently reopened after a $9.7 million renovation, as CultureMap reported. A fitting closing chapter to a pivotal book, indeed.
“The Negro Motorist Green Book” runs Friday, September 1 through Sunday, November 26 at Holocaust Museum Houston (5401 Caroline St.). For tickets, hours, and more information, visit hmh.org/GreenBook.