Discovering and remembering the Green Book

The cover of The Green Book from 1954. was started in 1936 by postal worker and travel writer Victor Hugo Green.
The Green Book was started in 1936 by postal worker and travel writer Victor Hugo Green. He died in 1960, and the Green Book ceased publication in 1966.

“Green Book” was a trending topic this week on Twitter because of its appearance on “Jeopardy!” In the Final Jeopardy round, the category was travel. Here was the clue:

The 1948 edition of this publication said, ‘There will be a day … in the near future when this guide will not have to be published.’

Only one of three contestants answered correctly with “What is the Green Book?” And this tweet posted after the show aired went viral:

A tweet that says: I just learned something on Jeopardy about 20th century history that I never knew. Without looking it up, do you know what the Green Book is?

Watching at home, I knew the answer to Final Jeopardy. But I only learned of the Green Book’s existence 10 years ago during a visit to the The International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. I toured the museum with my mom and my son.

One of the exhibits consisted of several editions of The Negro Motorist Green Book. The docent explained how the Green Book was a guide for Black tourists looking for safe places to visit, eat and stay for the night.

I was fascinated to learn about the Green Book’s place in American history and in journalism. I wondered about the reporting, writing and editing that went into each annual edition. And I was disappointed that no history class or journalism course — K-12 through graduate school — had ever mentioned it.

The clue from “Jeopardy!” shows that the Green Book is an important document that should be remembered as a significant part of U.S. history. Indeed, there are people alive today who can recall using it.

If you want to learn more about the Green Book, I recommend browsing the digitized collection of numerous editions at the New York Public Library and watching the documentary “The Green Book: Guide To Freedom.”