Unpacking the Green Book

Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America

Mar 1–Apr 8, 2018

The Negro Motorist Green Book, commonly known as The Green Book, was a travel guide that helped black road-trippers avoid the dangers, injustices, and racial violence of segregation during the Jim Crow era in America. It was published by New York postal worker Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1967, and listed establishments such as hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, nightclubs, bars, gas stations, and more, where black travelers would be welcome. In an age of sundown towns, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement, The Green Book became an indispensable tool for safe navigation.

Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America explores the history of The Green Book in an interactive project space through materials such as a library and reading area devoted to the topics of segregation, automobility, travel, and leisure, specifically as they relate to the black American experience in the midcentury; digitized copies of The Green Book; interactive maps that explore travel destinations included in it; and multiple film excerpts from upcoming documentary projects. It will also include two banners by Cauleen Smith, featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Arts and Design, and two sculptures exploring locations in Harlem and D.C. from William D. Williams’s 2012 Dresser Truck Project

The goal of Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America is to foster curiosity and deeper investigation into the history of racial oppression through the lens of the black experience in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century United States using art, film, and literature to encourage dialogue, critical thinking, and empathy. Though organized in association with Derrick Adams: Sanctuary, the exhibition explores issues of mobility and racism that are also relevant to the experiences happening at the United States–Mexico border, as illuminated by La Frontera: Encounters Along the Border.

Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America is curated by Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio.

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