As we enter the second week of Black History Month, I want to share Opening The Road by Keila Dawson with you all.
This inspiring picture book biography details Victor Hugo Green’s creation and distribution of The Negro Motorist Green Book, or as most people call it today, The Green Book.
In the late 1930’s, Black Americans were not guaranteed safe travel throughout the United States. Segregation barred Black motorist’s access to establishments like gas stations, rest areas, or hotels. The high number of “sundown towns”, all white communities that excluded non-white individuals after dark though intimidating and often violent tactics, made it dangerous for Black Americans to travel long distances.
Inspired by a Jewish newspaper, Victor Hugo Green, a US Postal Service worker in Harlem, decided to write a book to help Black travelers find safe options. The Green Book allowed trips to be planned with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and many other businesses that welcomed Black customers. This travel guide became an invaluable resource for Black Americans throughout the country, and it flew off shelves, eventually selling over two million copies.
I love that the illustrations by Alleanna Harris bring life not just to Victor’s story, but also to the stories of many Black families who were able to safely enjoy family vacations.
Victor’s story highlights the resilience Black Americans have shown amid the countless obstacles facing them throughout our nation’s history. In the face of enormous challenges like segregation and racism, Victor, Alma, and all of Victor’s Postal service friends found a way to distribute vital information throughout the country, allowing numerous travelers safe passage.
The back of the book contains a fantastic author’s note that includes more historical detail, context around why The Green Book is relevant to conversations about safety in Black communities today, and information on current projects inspired by The Green Book, as well as a timeline.
You can purchase a copy of Opening The Road wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
Keila Dawson is an author, editor, and former teacher based in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at keiladawson.com.
Alleanna Harris is an artist and illustrator based in New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at alleannaharris.com.
I would like to thank Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of this amazing book. I am so grateful to be able to share Victor Hugo Green’s story.