THE GREEN BOOK AND NIAGARA FALLS ACCOMODATIONS
By Cady Berardi
This article first appeared in the 2016 Circa magazine
Cartoon of “Gee Bee” the Green Book from the 1963-64 edition
Ever since the motor vehicle was popularized in the first decades of the 19th century, the family road trip has been a North American tradition. The increasing affordability of cars, the rapidly expanding network of highways and the appearance of motels (“Motor Hotels”) helped to bolster this method of travel. Families could consult paperback guide books to get information on the best places to sleep, eat and go sightseeing. But this information was not complete for some travellers.
In the United States, this same time period was also characterized by the pervasive, institutional racial segregation and subjugation of Black people, both through codified laws (called Jim Crow laws in the Southern states) and unwritten (but violently enforced) social conventions. While a Black family would know the places in their own area where they were welcome to patronize, they would have no such knowledge of the places farther afield through which they were travelling.
Every stop was a potential minefield; the penalty for unwittingly entering an unfriendly establishment could be embarrassment, harassment or even death. George Schuyler reported in 1943, "Many colored families have motored all across the United States without being able to secure overnight accommodations at a single tourist camp or hotel." Black travellers would plan ahead by packing their own meals and bringing their own gasoline. Some even resorted to keeping a bucket in their trunk because they could not be certain that they would find somewhere that would allow them to use the bathroom facilities.
For the concluding part of this article, click on the link below:
The Green Book