Green Book on Route 66
Route 66 has been immortalized in American History by catchy songs, images, posters, even Pixar movies. To this day, nothing screams America like a family going on a nice Sunday afternoon drive with the world ahead of them. Despite the loving nostalgia of such a famous route, there is a darker side to its history: the dangers that African Americans faced when driving coast to coast on it.
An article published in the Atlantic states that “[i]n 1930, 44 out of the 89 counties lining Route 66 were all-white communities known as ‘sundown towns’—places that banned Blacks from entering city limits after dark.” Often, lodgings and restaurants would have a code to signify that the stops were affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and would only serve white people, by naming the establishments a three worded name, each word starting with the letter K. There was never a time or place more in need of The Green Book.
The Green Book was by far the most popular of the travel books published for African Americans, but the Black friendly businesses it listed on Route 66 were few and far between—a stretch of road where communities and businesses were already scarce, and those safe for people of color even more so. In Illinois, after leaving Chicago, the next business listed in The Green Book was in Springfield, IL. Even in multicultural cities, black people often struggled to find lodgings.
Despite the constant threat of violence and lynchings, African Americans still took to Route 66. The Green Book didn’t solve all of their problems, but it was a helpful aid for travelers. It even had a few businesses listed right here in Anderson! (Note: Anderson was not a stop on Route 66.)
Go on over to the next page to read a bit of a more localized view of The Green Book here in our own state of Indiana.
For more information on how to map your next trip with The Green Book, visit this NYPL Exhibit.
Taylor, Candacy. “The Roots of Route 66.” The Atlantic online (Nov. 13, 2016). Accessed 12 Nov, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/the-roots-of-route-66/506255/.