The middle of the 20th Century was a golden age for road travel in the United States. Cars had become cheap and spacious enough to carry families comfortably for hundreds of miles. The Interstate Highway System had started to connect … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars. The american dream freedom on wheels. An automotive age travelling timesaving superhighways future. The nineteen forties fifties and Sixtys were the golden age of road travel. Cars have become cheap in room enough to carry families comfortably for hundreds of miles. The interstate highway system had started to connect the country smaller roads into a vast nation wide network. Finally, tourists could make their way from New York to California, with the windows down and the wind in their hair. Seeing the grandeur of America alone, we have become a nation on the wheel with law and order. I billowy than ever dreamed up by us.
This freedom and mobility wasn't available to everyone. That's our brand producer and splash of Goldwater going home because in ninety fifty six year that federal funding made the interstate highway system possible. Jim Crow was still the law of the land in the south. Racial segregation was enforced by law and had been sent shortly after reconstruction. In many parts of the north and the Kurds were enforced in practice and these codes could make a simple road trip really complicated for black travellers. This is not a good level, as are you picking me up? Well there this is Curtis graves. My name is Curtis Graves and I'll buy nineteen thirty eight. So I'm a little older than most of the people who are listening to this Please would eventually become a Texas state representative and then
You go on to work at NASA and then he'd become a photographer, but as a kid, he up in the segregated south and for many years his parents tried to shield him from that reality and said that both my mother and father, where the best liars that I knew, for instance, we sat in the back of a bus because it was cooler there. We wrote in the front the train because you could get off quicker Stan upstairs in the movie, because you had better seats and upstairs of Christ. That ruse couldn't last and by the time Curtis was a college senior in Houston, Texas. In the mid nineties. Fifties he fully aware of what it meant to be a black person living under Jim Crow. Theirs, experience in particular that stands out in his mind. Twenty one years old and getting ready to drive to a college meeting in Waco about three hours, northwest of Houston. He degree
to take a couple of acquaintances. They happen to be white women. I said to myself, I might be in for some difficult times here, but you know I had to so John to get two Waco Curtis had to drive through a stretch of east taxes that was notorious in those decades for racial violence. Oh yeah, those communities were pretty bad around the travellers got hungry, so they pulled over at a roadside diner. As soon as we get in the front door, the guys I'm sorry, but you can't come in here. We, sir, but people at all, The three of them went back outside an Curtis devised, a plan. They dry another restaurant rate, the street to them the two of you go in get a table and after he was seated and the waiter wages comes up to you tell them that you have a boy, that's driving you and
You want to know whether he can you can bring a man to eat, so the women walked inside and they asked the Waitress if Curtis could come inside to join them. The Ladys, of course, no problem at all. As long as I was there boy and their driver, I could eat with them. At a table Strong If I were equal to them, I could not this kind of humiliation on the road was routine and had been going on. For decades many people road into the individual c p around this time described experiences just like courtesies our main concern starting our recent vacation trip to several eastern states. Dear sir, I am a member of the endeavour. Lay c p I would like to report an incident occurred on January first at a glove service station in making Georgia. When I went to the restrooms refresh ourselves then found a vacant table to me.
Past and no one came to service. He informed me that the restaurant The color was in the back seat to me. Dealers should not be permitted to sail gas and oil and not provided comfort for us. Our son some travellers would drive all night instead of trying to find lodging in an unfamiliar and possibly dangerous town. They packed pig they didn't have to stop for food somebody would even carry portable toilets in the trunks of their cars. Knowing that is a good chance. They be turned away from roadside restrooms, but since one thousand eight hundred and thirty six, a guy named Victor Hugo Green I've, been trying to help with some of these problems to make life easier for thousands of black motorist state. By I ve been putting together a travel guide with listings of restaurants, hotels and service stations. That would Oh come african american travellers. He called
the Negro Motorist Green Book, the green book. For short, Victor's Green who died in nineteen. Sixty lived in Harlem New York during the height of the Harlem Renaissance parliament was not far from Duke Ellington, his office would eventually be situated near smallest paradise. A famous Club didn't have the most obvious background for starting a travel guide anymore. Tourism. He wasn't a writer He was a mailman in Hackensack, New Jersey, but he kept hearing stories about discrimination on the road, so he would Go do his route and Hackensack majority come back home work on a green book at night, compiling these addresses typing them up and put them. In a book this Calvin Alexander Ramsay playwright off. Film filmmaker and years ago called started researching the history of the Green Box. He learned
the green book wasn't really the first guide of its kind. In fact, Victor may have gotten the idea from jewish travellers, because which community was also having issues the open road with a loud. Ices saying restricted code word for Gentiles. Only when Victor was his first green book. It just cover New York and he heard countries from other carriers and other people saying we really need this nation wide, but it wasn't that easy to gather information from across the country. Back then long distance phone calls were expensive and that Calvin says is when Victor Green realised that being a mailman was his secret superpower. There were after mark and let it carries out of United States, it is time we talk about nineteen, thirty. Six, so he knew about you know the relationships that the male men have with their homeowners. Apartment dwellers delivering their mail so dislike. Today
the man is part of the community, so Calvin says your tapped into this network spreading the word about his guide through the National Alliance of postal and federal employees, a letter care our union, Calvin Postal workers across the country, scouted potential green book locations and their cities and towns. He says I'm even asked families they delivered to. If they'd be open to host, travellers in their homes and they agreed then, they were Cindy information to victory, green in Harlem, space at this time. We talk about nineteen, thirty, six, and so carriers who are all over the country who acquire materials and names and addresses and businesses for him where they were the blackmail man. You had agreed Book salesman or recruiter, be quickly the green book caught on businesses many blacker and began getting in touch with Victor hoping to advertise in hoping to be listed. Blackness
paper signed on sponsors, Victor actually retired from his job as a letter carrier and started working on the guide full time, even open and affiliated travel agency that help tour arrange trips, but still the challenge of distribution, howdy the guide into the hands of travellers who needed it will happen. In a few ways the United States Trammel Bureau signed on to help out, and then there were the more informal networks. Well, churches, torment forward. The urban lead and about C p, the masonic lodges. There was a very wide, varied distribution process in place for these green books, there was an important corporate sponsor to a big one. Is that a common gas? That's fine, there's a marvel. Every mile at the Essen makes we motoring.
Also known as standard oil and now known as excellent mobile was one of the few companies back then than actively pursued black customers, they franchise their stations to african american operators and they had a boy Ike Representative on Staff Jane billboard Jackson who helped place, grew books in many of those stations as well. As the white own ones, may have done this out of a sense of fairness and equality, Dundee Rockefeller who fell did standard oil in eighteen. Seventy had married and a family of abolitionists who were part of the underground rail, road and HEAT for Abraham Lincoln back in the day, but as a pro they did it for another reason to money: honey to do with money. Curtis, who had the crappy experience striving across EAST Texas. His dad operate, one of the first black owned associations in New Orleans, where Curtis was born and raised it, was called boots ie and buddies. The ECB
I'm glad you of stocking the green book was pretty simple. He sets if you want workpeople, to buy you a few one. To give them an opportunity to see that they can travel and fine places to stay. While there are on the road travelling, so courtesies, dad kept a shelf of Green Box for his customers You know somebody came in and said ah buddy, I'm I'm thinking about taken Chicago, my dad would say well Do you know where to stop between here and Chicago and other person would say no say what happened to the green book will tell you, and he gave you a sense of early, and so the green book came to cover listings in all fifty states and even some locations in Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico. They printed about Fifteen thousand copies of youth Green had changed travel for thousands of african american tourists here,
nineteen fifty six introduction to the guide. Now things are different. The negro traveller depend on the green of all the information he wants. This guide May travelling more popular without encountering embarrassing situations but as a subordinate struggle continued. Some people began to question the value of the green book, a black people. Many of them began to feel that this was accommodating to Jim Crow. Susan rule is a professor of history. At Brigham, young University, and she says that the green book began to seem a little out of step with the times it rarely took on and overtly political town, especially in its early days, and there were, the other black travel guides published around the same time, the dead one. Travel guide, for instance, travel guide listed. Where than doubling he chapters were in each city. They were much more
our attuned with civil rights. Much more political ties. Eventually, the end of a lazy p made it clear. In the end, a boy if he said what we striving for worth striving for integration, and so that their stand and the end ablaze, he p built a lot of their push for the nineteen. Sixty four civil rights ACT, which outlaw discrimination based on race and end Jim Crow around this idea of total integration. In fact, and the police. He p testified during the debate over the bill. They drew on all those letters they'd received about discrimination on the road. They appeal that vision of the iconic family, road trip of the freedom to explore America by Car Roy Well, the executive secretary of the end ablaze, CP spoke before this. Its commerce committee in nineteen sixty three assumes com. This gets out there all gonna head into Station wagons and go back to their home district
July in Washington, it's really hot woke, thus the Senate to imagine what it might be like to travel as a black person. Would you me to read what royal and said how far Our do you drive each day where during the debate over the bill, they drew on all those waters they'd received about The restroom can use driving after reasonable day behind the wheel, You drive until you reach a city where relatives are friends will accommodate you and yours for the night. Will you. Children be denied a soft drink or an ice cream com, Because they are not white, please appealing to them in their at the most basic level of their own love for their own family and some things that may have been one of the things that helped pass the bill. Framing the narrative of civil rights as a Emily Travel narrative, they were able to convince the senators to both for their bill
in nineteen sixty four President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law bill into things civilized male ever to be written into the law and thus reaffirms the conception of equality. All men that began with Lincoln and the civil war. One hundred years ago, a negro his freedom. Then he wins. His dignity love the civil right struggle was not over then, and still not over today, but for Victor Green. It became clear at some point that his green book had a limited shelf life here: in the introduction to one of his guides, there will be a day sometime in the near future. This guy will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United
and sure enough. Two years after the Civil Rights ACT passed, the green book published its last addition. So actually could you just described by we? I wear Thea public library, downtown the central branch in LOS Angeles, and we're down in the bowels for flow. Down underground strange ideology department. You have a stack of books there in front of you, What are they do? They are green box there just tools. I mean I just buzz with this kind of good energy that I just feel like my God there. Actually here it's amazing, it's amazing You see, Taylor is a photographer and a cultural documentarily. In the guide. He's holding our small, maybe eight inches by five inches they have green, covers each with a different destination featured, and there are
Why are you downtown the central branch in LOS Angeles and were down in the bow beauty, parlors, barbershops, tailors tab. There were night clubs, it was really social network. It was anything you might want to do in that town and the resources at work. How about you Can they see has been travelling? The country documenting old, green book locations from California to Oklahoma, to New Mexico, he establishments are now run by people who don't know much if anything about the police's history Some of the buildings are gone and what's left is just an empty lot or a patch of grass, Even these original copies of the guide are rare. Now the Smithsonian bought one at auction recently for twitter two thousand five hundred dollars. Look in your listening to neat- and you know your parents lived during Jim
Crow, look in your annex and see you might have killed. Twenty thousand dollar guide, you never know twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money but in nineteen thirty six, when the green book first appeared and can be purchased for twenty five cents by the travellers who needed at the most, it was our. Globally worth even more? many represent. Invisible was produced this week by Delaney Hall, with Katy Mingle, SAM Greenspan, every Chauvelin, Kirkwall, Stead, Sharif, Youssef and me roman Mars. Thanks D extorted with the american history guys for the recordings of the letters to the doubly cp read by Elisa Floyd, Stephen Tolliver, endlessly telephone and Allison pupil.
The part of Victor Greed. Thanks also to Orlando Gonzalez, at the National Association of Letter carriers in a key more at the National Alliance of postal and federal employees to find a link to candidacy, tailors images of old green book locations and learn more about Calvin Ramses film about the green book visit. Ninety nine dot org We are production unknown and presented visible ankle project of K, ailed abuse in Francisco and produced at the offices of oxide in architecture and interiors firm in beautiful, downtown oakland before you. If you visit the brand new ninety nine p, I dot org you'll find new non audio articles with all the things you love about. Ninety nine p, I without me prattling on I'm, really excited that we get to take on topics that are either to visual for the show or require such quick term around that we just can't fitted into the audio show production schedule, but I also need to pay for it and we're trying out display adds. So if you have access to the marketing funds of a cool
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.