Houston Matters

Project Documents African American-Friendly Businesses During Jim Crow Era

Houstonians Toya and Reuben Levi tells us about The Green Book Project.

Green Book Covers
Covers from different editions of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide that helped African-American travelers find hotels and businesses that would serve them.
The Negro Motorist Green Book
The cover of the 1940 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide for African-American travelers outlining hotels and businesses that would serve them.

During segregation, African Americans traveling the country faced a dilemma: what hotels, restaurants, and businesses were friendly to them?

In the days before Yelp and the Internet, there was The Negro Motorist Green Book, or Green Book for short.

These were travel guides that not only listed African American-friendly businesses but also offered tips on handling oneself in public, how to deal with police, how to keep a car from breaking down, and lists of so-called “sundown towns,” places where it was dangerous for blacks after sundown.

African-American Family Traveling
An African-American family poses in their car. During segregation, many such families relied on The Negro Motorist Green Book to help them find hotels and businesses that would serve them.

The books got their name from their publisher, Victor H. Green, and were published all over the country. Eventually, they even went abroad.

Green wrote in the opening of the volumes that he hoped they would one day be unnecessary, and eventually they were. He stopped publishing them in the 1960s.

Green Book Project - Travelers
During segregation, African-American travelers relied on The Negro Motorist Green Book to help them find hotels and businesses that would serve them.

Decades later, Houstonians Toya and Reuben Levi discovered Green Books while themselves traveling the country. They were so fascinated that they started looking up places listed in the guides to see if they were still there. They became so engaged that they started The Green Book Project to explore the guide’s impact and legacy.

For the project, they’re traveling to cities included in the books doing interviews and documenting any Green Book-listed sites that are still standing.

In the audio above, the Levis tell Houston Matters about the project and what they hope people will take away from it.

Toya and Reuben Levi
Toya and Reuben Levi are the creators of The Green Book Project.

Share