Route 66’s legacy of racial segregation

The Negro Motorist Green Book, published 1936-1964, was more than a guide book; it was a lifesaver in the racist world of southern and western US states, featuring motels and businesses that extended their services to black travellers before the civil rights movement helped bring about change

  • Read our classic Route 66 road trip guide tomorrow on theguardian.com/travel

Being black and travelling away from home during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in the US was potentially life-threatening. It involved a lot of planning, faith and a reliable travel guide called the The Negro Motorist Green Book. Victor H Green, a black postal worker from Harlem, New York, published this annual roadside companion from 1936-1964 and it was distributed by Esso gas stations. Green said he wanted to “give the Negro traveller information that will keep him from running into difficulties and embarrassments”. This book did more than that: it provided life-saving information, which earned it the unofficial title of the Bible of Black Travel.

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