‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ Exhibition Opens At Illinois Holocaust Museum In Skokie

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) — The Negro Motorist Green Book, an exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with award-winning author, photographer, and cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor, is coming to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, just in time for Black History Month.

The exhibition opens Jan. 29 and runs through April 23.

“The Green Book,” first published in 1936 under the title “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was created for the growing African American middle class. who had the desire and financial means to travel the country. but were restricted from many of the resources and accommodations necessary. Social and legal constraints, including unwelcoming hotels, restaurants, and gas stations along with Jim Crow-era laws and sundown towns – communities where African Americans were legally barred from spending the night – were very prevalent in many places across America.

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The book provided Black customers with a guide to hotels, restaurants, gas stations and cultural attractions that would accept their business. Often. these resources were themselves Black-owned and operated.

In Chicago, “The Green Book” mostly directed travelers to listings located in the South Side community of Bronzeville. Of the over 180 businesses listed in Chicago, nearly 80% were in the Bronzeville District, an area that was considered a mecca for Black manufacturing, hair care, publishing, and banking industries.

About the exhibition

“The Negro Motorist Green Book” offers viewers an opportunity to travel back in time through the perspective of the traveler, with an immersive and participatory exhibit. Viewers will experience the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-century America and how the annual guide served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising African American middle class.

The exhibition, through artifacts, historic footage, and firsthand accounts, expresses not only the apprehension felt by African American travelers, but also the resilience, innovation and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence.

“This exhibition tells a story of resilience during the Jim Crow era when Black travelers faced often insurmountable discrimination. ‘The Green Book’ offered critical, life-saving information and sanctuary,” said Senior VP of Education & Exhibitions Kelley Szany. “Moreover, this is an inspirational story of communities, like Bronzeville, who took agency over their neighborhood, a story of growth in Black-owned businesses and the rising of the middle class.”

Details about the exhibition, programs and local stories are available at https://ihm.ec/greenbook.

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