For countless Americans, the open road has long been a place where dangers lurk. In the era of Jim Crow, Black travelers encountered locked doors, hostile police, and potentially violent encounters almost everywhere, in both the South and the North. From 1936 to 1967, millions relied on The Negro Motorist Green Book, the definitive guide to businesses where they could safely rest, eat, or sleep.
Most Americans only know of the guide from the 2018 Green Book movie or the 2020 Lovecraft Country TV show. Alvin Hall set out to revisit the world of the Green Book to instruct us all on the real history of the guide that saved many lives. With his friend Janée Woods Weber, he drove from New York to Detroit to New Orleans, visiting motels, restaurants, shops, and stores where Black Americans once found a friendly welcome. They explored historical and cultural landmarks, from the theatres and clubs where stars like Duke Ellington and Lena Horne performed to the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Along the way, they gathered memories from some of the last living witnesses for whom the Green Book meant survival—remarkable people who not only endured but rose above the hate, building vibrant Black communities against incredible odds.
Driving the Green Book is a vital work of national history as well as a hopeful chronicle of Black resilience and resistance.
Author: Alvin Hall