The Driving the Green Book Podcast Companion Book

A forthcoming companion book for our podcast will be published by Flatiron Books. Check back here for more information about the publication.

About The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green

Cover of the book The Negro Motorist Green-Book (1940 edition) by Victor Hugo Green.

The Negro Motorist Green Book was originally published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green and his wife, Alma. Frustrated by a lack of services that were available to them as they traveled south on road trips to visit family, the Greens were inspired to create a guide that would allow Black people to negotiate travel safely and reduce on-the-road frustrations. It was a physical manifestation of the word-of-mouth network that shared information that Black travelers used to protect themselves and find safe, comfortable, and welcoming resources.

At the time of publication, Victor Hugo Green worked as a mail carrier in New Jersey and belonged to a Black postal workers union. Green relied on this extended network of mail carriers to help gather the information and resources listed in the guides.

Originally, the Greens ran their business out of their apartment in the Sugar Hill neighborhood in Harlem, New York, but in 1942 as the guides gained popularity, they moved into an office building on 135th Street where they also ran a travel agency.

The first guides covered New York City and the surrounding metropolian area. By 1938, the Greens expanded the guide to include states east of the Mississippi. Over time the Green Book would grow to cover the entire U.S. as segregation and discriminatory practices occurred in cities, towns, and counties in every state. Eventually international locations like Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean were also included.

Today, you can see original copies of the Green Book at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which is part of the New York Public Library. The Schomburg Center is located a few blocks east of 200 W. 135th Street, where the Greens once had an office. You can also browse through the New York Public Library’s digital archive of the guides.