Alternate Routes

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Sample pages from "The Negro Travelers’ Green Book." Courtesy the University of South Carolina South Caroliniana Library via the South Carolina Digital Library.

As the car became the dominant mode of transportation and travel in twentieth-century America, the realities of segregation limited options for travelers of color, reflected a larger culture of inequality. Prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement, segregation laws persisted throughout many areas in the country, while in others, climates of discrimination and violence without legal grounding limited access to businesses, lodging, and recreation. For many non-white travelers, reference materials and word-of-mouth recommendations were required to map a safe route across country.

Publications were released to accommodate these inequities in travel culture. For example, the Negro Travelers' Green Book provided detailed listings and indexes of African American-owned businesses throughout the country where black travelers would feel comfortable dining and lodging as they vacationed or moved across country. Many of the five-million participants in the Second Great Migration (1941-1970)—African Americans who moved to urban centers in the North, Midwest, and West by car and bus—relied on travel resources like the Green Book to safely navigate their journeys.