Mapping the Green Book and the Spaces In Between

Carr’s Beach, near Annapolis, Maryland, 1958. WANN Radio Station Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

In our February research roundtable Jennifer Reut, graduate of the UVA Art & Architectural History PhD and Senior Editor at Landscape Architecture Magazine, spoke on her research project Mapping the Green Book

Mapping the Green Book began as a research project with a deceptively straightforward objective: To map the sites that were listed in the Green Book, a national guide for black travelers published annually between 1936 and 1964. Nearly every year during that time, the Green Book published a listing of hotels, restaurants, gas stations, hair salons, nightclubs, and drugstores in every state that were known to welcome black patrons. It is a map, in text form, of the changing landscape of racialized space across nearly three decades. 

At the time the project was begun in 2012, editions of the Green Book lived in archives scattered around the country, there was little published research on black travel guides and only a small body of secondary research on black tourism and travel. In the five years since, the context for the project has changed radically. Nearly the entire run of the Green Book has been digitized and made publicly accessible, there is a comprehensive scholarly work coming out in the next few months, a Ric Burns-directed documentary in production, and perhaps most significantly, Black Lives Matter has brought attention to the specter of violence against black people on the road that has echoes throughout the Green Book and other travel guides

This context has informed the project’s evolution, from a digital mapping proposal to one that incorporates oral history and documentary photography, from one that documents landscapes of black travel to one that includes feminist, economic, urban, and social history.

Reut's research uncovers the Green Book as a spatial artifact of segregation that demonstrates how consumption operated as a form of resistance that allowed Green Book users to circument the segregation of public transportation and explicitly encourage investment in African American owned businesses. You can view the powerpoint from the presentation here