Victor H. Green

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Victor Hugo Green (November 9, 1892 - 1960[1]) was a Harlem, New York, USA, postal employee and civic leader. He developed and wrote what became known as The Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans in the United States at a time when their choices of lodging, restaurants and even gas stations was restricted in many places, including outside the South. It was first published as The Negro Motorist Green Book and later as The Negro Travelers' Green Book. The books were published from 1936 to 1966.[2] Green reviewed hotels and restaurants that did business with African Americans during the time of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the United States. He printed 15,000 copies each year.

In the 1930s, Green began his work by compiling data on stores in the New York area that accepted black travelers, and published his first guide in 1936. Similar guides had been published for Jewish travelers, who sometimes faced discrimination.[3] Green's guide was so popular that he immediately began to expand its coverage the next year to other US destinations, adding hotel and restaurants as well. After retiring from the Postal Service, Green continued to work on updating issues of The Green Book. In addition, he developed the related travel agency business he had established in 1947.

Biography[edit]

Victor Hugo Green, named for the noted French author, was born on November 9, 1892, in New York City,[4] the eldest of three children of William H. and Alice A. Green. His family moved and he grew up in suburban Hackensack, New Jersey.[5] Starting in 1913 he worked in Bergen County, New Jersey as a postal carrier for the US Postal Service.[4][6]

In 1918 Green married Alma Duke (1889-1978) of Richmond, Virginia.[7] She came to New York as part of the Great Migration from the South to northern cities in the early twentieth century. After their marriage, the couple moved to Harlem, New York, which was attracting blacks from across the country. It developed as a center of black arts and culture in the period of the Harlem Renaissance. They lived in an apartment at 580 St. Nicholas Avenue.[8]

He died in 1960.

Publishing and travel career[edit]

As African Americans began to own automobiles and take part in the developing American car culture, they were restricted by racial segregation in the United States. State laws in the South required separate facilities for African Americans and many motels and restaurants in northern states also excluded them. "For the Negro traveler, whether on business or pleasure, there was always trouble finding suitable accommodation in hotels and guest houses where he would be welcomed." [9]

In 1936 Green "thought of doing something about this. He thought of a listing, as comprehensive as possible, of all first-class hotels throughout the United States that catered to Negroes." [10] He collected information on hotels, restaurants and gas stations that served African Americans for his first edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book. Since some towns did not have any hotels or motels that would accept African American guests, he listed "tourist homes," where owners would rent rooms to travelers.[6][11] His first edition had data for facilities only in the New York metropolitan area.[6] In his introduction, Green wrote:

"There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal rights and privileges in the United States."[6]

Green created a publishing office in Harlem to support his guide. In 1947 he established a Vacation Reservation Service, a travel agency to book reservations at black-owned establishments. By 1949 the guide included international destinations in Bermuda, Mexico and Canada; it listed places for food, lodging, and gas stations.[12] In 1952 Green changed the name to The Negro Travelers' Green Book. His travel agency office was located at 200 W. 135th Street in Harlem, New York.[7]

Green printed 15,000 copies each year of The Green Book, marketing them to white as well as black-owned businesses to demonstrate "the growing affluence of African Americans."[6] At the time, Esso franchised gas stations to African Americans, when some other companies did not. The Esso stations became popular sales outlets for the book.[6] Similar guides had been published for Jewish travelers in some areas.[3]

Although Green died in 1960, publication continued, with his widow Alma serving as editor,[13] until 1966.[1] Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and legal end to racial segregation in public facilities marked the beginning of the guide's obsolescence; the goal that Green had described in his introduction to the first edition of his work.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Ruth and the Green Book (2010), children's book
  • Calvin Alexander Ramsey, The Green Book, a play that had a staged reading on September 15, 2010, at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC;[14][3] It premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2011.[15]
  • The Dresser Trunk Project (2007), traveling exhibit about black travel during segregation, organized by William Daryl Williams, director of School of Architecture and Interior Design, University of Cincinnati.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Green Book:  the Forgotten Story of One Carrier's Legacy Helping Others Navigate Jim Crow's Highways. The Postal Record (National Association of Letter Carriers). September 2013. pp. 22–25. Retrieved 2013-09-13. ... until his death in 1960. 
  2. ^ Emma Lacey-Bordeaux and Wayne Drash (February 25, 2011). "Travel guide helped African-Americans navigate tricky times". CNN. Retrieved February 27, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c J. Freedom du Lac, "Guidebook that aided black travelers during segregation reveals vastly different D.C.", Washington Post, 11 September 2010. Quote: "The discovery of a 1949 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide important to African Americans traveling during segregation and needing to find friendly hotels, restaurants, shops and other services, helps shed light on the District's important role in the African American experience. It has also inspired a new play.", accessed 9 March 2015
  4. ^ a b Victor H. Green in the World War II draft registration, Selective Service, 1942 
  5. ^ 1910 Federal Census for Hackensack, Bergen County, New Jersey
  6. ^ a b c d e f g McGee, Celia (August 22, 2010). "The Open Road Wasn’t Quite Open to All". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. A Harlem postal employee and civic leader named Victor H. Green conceived the guide in response to one too many accounts of humiliation or violence where discrimination continued to hold strong. 
  7. ^ a b http://www.teachingushistory.org/ttrove/documents/GreenBook.pdf Novera C. Dashiell, "Many Happy Returns", The Negro Motorist Green Book of 1956, Teaching US History, p. 6, accessed 25 Aug 2010
  8. ^ 1930 Federal Census for Manhattan Borough (part of 21st Assembly District), City of New York, Enumeration District 31-1000, Page 5-A, Lines 15-16
  9. ^ Alfredo Graham, "Travel Whirl," (New York) Age, August 23, 1958, 32
  10. ^ Alfredo Graham, "Travel Whirl," (New York) Age, August 23, 1958, 32
  11. ^ Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson (2005). Hidden kitchens: stories, recipes, and more from NPR's The Kitchen Sisters. Rodale Press. ISBN 1-59486-313-X. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  12. ^ Justin Hyde. "The Guide That Helped Black Motorists Drive Around Jim Crow". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  13. ^ " 'Green Book' in 26th Year," (Pittsburgh) Courier, June 9, 1962, 19
  14. ^ Lincoln Theatre Website, 2010
  15. ^ Towne, Douglas (July 2011). "African-American Travel Guide". Phoenix Magazine. p. 46. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]