THE GREEN BOOK

MAPPING BLACK MOBILITY IN AMERICA

 

1949-green-book-cover.jpg

Being black and traveling away from home during the Jim Crow era involved a great deal of planning, faith and a reliable travel guide called the “Green Book.”  The Green Book was created by a black postal worker named Victor H. Green. It was published from 1936 to 1967 and considered the “Bible of Black Travel. The Green Book listed a variety of businesses including restaurants, hotels, barbershops, taverns, nightclubs, tailors, garages, doctors, drug stores, and real estate offices that served black travelers.

During the time it was in publication, there were over 1000 all-white communities called “Sundown Towns,” throughout the United States. Some posted signs or rang a bell at 6pm warning black people to leave before sundown. This is why the cover of the Green Book warned, “Always Carry Your Green Book With You—You May Need It.”

MAPPING PROJECT

To bring the Green Book out of the past and re-present it in the current cultural paradigm of race and poverty, I would like to develop a digital interactive map that will trace the history of physical and social mobility of black Americans. This would be the first comprehensive Green Book map comprised from twenty-four editions. Sundown towns, lynching sites, real estate redlining, KKK chapters, and “law and order” targeted neighborhoods will be mapped. Users will interact with the map by typing in their zip code to see if they were raised in or near a sundown town or see if there are current hate groups in their area.

 

 This is a draft of a preliminary map I built in Google Maps. It is a precursor to the digital interactive map I would like to create with the help of the Guggenheim. The map is built in layers, so each icon field (see key below) represents a particular dataset. I am showing all of them here as a snapshot of the project, but Guggenheim funds would allow me to work closely with a software development company to develop a more elegant interface.   Guggenheim funds will also allow me to gather more layers of statistical data, digitize archival ephemera from Green Book sites, videotape field interviews with current and former Green Book business operators, and document the neighborhoods where these sites were clustered by recording street views with a 360-degree camera. These photographs, video footage, and interviews will be assigned to corresponding map points and will act as an interactive feature to humanize the datasets.   KEY   Red & Green: Green Book Sites  Yellow: Sundown Towns  Purple: Hate Groups (Swastikas) and Private Prisons (bars)  Brown: Lynching Sites  Black: All-black towns that were created after Reconstruction

This is a draft of a preliminary map I built in Google Maps. It is a precursor to the digital interactive map I would like to create with the help of the Guggenheim. The map is built in layers, so each icon field (see key below) represents a particular dataset. I am showing all of them here as a snapshot of the project, but Guggenheim funds would allow me to work closely with a software development company to develop a more elegant interface.

Guggenheim funds will also allow me to gather more layers of statistical data, digitize archival ephemera from Green Book sites, videotape field interviews with current and former Green Book business operators, and document the neighborhoods where these sites were clustered by recording street views with a 360-degree camera. These photographs, video footage, and interviews will be assigned to corresponding map points and will act as an interactive feature to humanize the datasets.

KEY

Red & Green: Green Book Sites

Yellow: Sundown Towns

Purple: Hate Groups (Swastikas) and Private Prisons (bars)

Brown: Lynching Sites

Black: All-black towns that were created after Reconstruction

 This is a sample map that was developed by a software development company called Piensa. They made a “heat map” based on my Google Map above. The green areas are Green Book sites, red areas are hate groups, the yellow areas are sundown towns. Guggenheim funds would allow me to work more closely with Piensa to incorporate more layers and push this idea much further.

This is a sample map that was developed by a software development company called Piensa. They made a “heat map” based on my Google Map above. The green areas are Green Book sites, red areas are hate groups, the yellow areas are sundown towns. Guggenheim funds would allow me to work more closely with Piensa to incorporate more layers and push this idea much further.

 

I produced the video below in partnership with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.