During the Jim Crow era, traveling in the United States for African-Americans was difficult and often dangerous. Motels and restaurants didn’t have to serve you if they didn’t want to. “Sundown towns”—places where it was unsafe to be black at night—dotted the nation’s geography. If you were driving around the country, the only way to know if you were safe was by word-of-mouth.
But a black civic leader named Victor H. Green came up with a better, more permanent solution. In the early 1930s, he began publishing a compendium of tips and wisdom for black travelers called The Negro Motorist’s Green Book, which would become better known as just the Green Book.