While the film Green Book introduces younger generations of Americans to what life was like was like prior to the passage of Civil Rights laws, visitors can see for themselves one of the old guidebooks which were the film’s namesake at the University of South Carolina.
The South Caroliniana Library has a Spring 1956 edition of the “Negro Travelers’ Green Book” in its collection.
“It was a nationwide travel guide for African-Americans listing restaurants, hotels that were either owned by other African-Americans throughout the country or that provided accommodations and food for African-Americans,” said head of collections Graham Duncan said.
“It’s particularly important in the South because we’re talking about Jim Crow segregation,” he said. “This provided black travelers, whether they’re coming from the North or the West, even travelers in the South, it provided them with a listing of places that they would be safe.”
The Green Book was published by Victor Green in 1936 as a state-by-state guide to hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, gas stations and popular sights that welcomed African-American travelers and tourists during segregation.
“We’re talking about an era of segregation where African-American travelers would be banned from public accommodations in white hotels,” Duncan said. “They were pre-Civil Rights Act. These places weren’t integrated.”
Duncan said he was impressed with how thorough the listings are.
“The most striking things are the small towns that are listed in there. Cheraw, Dillon, Darlington had listings in the Green Book,” he said.
The impromptu exhibit at Thomas Cooper Library includes the university’s copy of the book, photographs of South Carolina hotels, restaurants and attractions listed in it, and advertisements and business cards used to promote the businesses.
“We wanted to put it into context with materials from some of our other collections,” Duncan said.
The Green Book exhibit is on the first floor of the Thomas Cooper Library. Although closed during the Christmas break, the library will maintain the exhibit into the January semester.