The Green Book

(Elie Wiesel has died. He survived a Nazi concentration camp, and ever since spread the Jewish mantra, “Never Again!” He added, “Never remain silent in the face of oppression.”

Elie Wiesel and this writer were born in the same year. We experienced differenct outrages against humanity in different parts of the world. The following is a portion of my testimonial.)

Upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams exhorted the nation to celebrate the occasion, in perpetuity, with great demonstrations of light, sound and jubilation. Adams was addressing a very restricted, “Nation;” it included only his fellow Founders and their immediate ilk. Even as the participants in that nation slowly increased, John Adams’ exhortation did not become generally applicable until the second half of the 20th century!

In the early part of the 20th century, the motor car and paved roads made all parts of the country and its beautiful national parks available to a wider swath of Americans, and international visitors alike. It also prompted the creation of the motor hotel (motel) and roadside eateries such as Howard Johnsons. The problem with this arrangement is that it was not open to all Americans – or dark people in general. Of course this was not a surprise to those among us of devil-darkened hue. Train travel already had established the protocol. The Southern practice of separate railroad cars for Colored only; being refused service in train station restaurants; being hidden behind a curtain in the dining car; being restricted to, “Colored Only” restrooms and drinking fountains was effective training for what lay ahead on the open, motoring road, throughout the entirety of these United States.

traveling motorists Victor H Green

In light of this “Appian Way apartheid,” an enterprising, African American mailman had a, “Lemonade” moment, In 1936, Victor H. Green published the, “Negro Motorist Green Book,” which became known as, “The Green Book.” Green’s publication continued, annually, until 1966. Coordinating information garnered from other mailmen throughout the country, Green was able to pinpoint for African Americans and other melanin-challenged road travelers where they could find accommodations and eating facilities throughout the country.

In the summer of 1941, our family drove from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a farm in Amherst, Virginia. I do not know if anyone was aware of the, “Green Book,” but, just as on the train, we carried our own lunch. I do not remember stopping anywhere overnight, so we must have driven straight through or slept in the car.

By all means, let us shout along with “Johnny-come-lately” Adams and his equally tardy compatriots. Let us remind them how their narrow, shortsighted and self-deceiving experiment actually did take root, and that, after many seasons of drought and careless cultivation, their original idea finally has blossomed into a nation worthy of all the hoopla suggested by Mr. Adams.

***** ***** *****

America, Old Gal, it took
A bit to get you off the hook.
You’re down, now, to stay.
Let’s savor the day
And cleanse the bullshit in the book!

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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