Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2018
THE ESSENTIAL GREEN BOOK BEYOND THE FREEDOM OF TRAVEL THEN & NOW
By: Gloria M. Herbert

BY GLORIA & SOLOMON HERBERT

In today's world, almost every American citizen would consider the freedom to TRAVEL as one of those inalienable rights perhaps as precious as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To African-Americans, travel represents an even greater level of freedom. One that did not come without years of struggle and challenge.

Looking back on the long history of African-Americans in this country, certainly we are not strangers to travel. Black people have come from literally traveling across the oceans as cargo in slave ships to being first class passengers aboard the world's luxury cruise liners. 

Harriet Tubman could be de  emed as one of the original African-American tour operators. She guided hundreds of enslaved Africans to travel on the dangerous trails of the treacherous Underground Railroad escaping bondage to freedom in new places they dreamed about. Now their descendants travel to the most fascinating and exotic destinations on the planet.

This year, if you are among the millions of African-Americans planning to take a road trip you might need; an updated map quest, an electronic device to research websites and to book hotel reservations, and, of course, a good GPS system.   Taking that same trip 50 years ago, during a time of racial segregation and Jim Crow laws, the one indispensable item you would be sure to have, was a little publication known as THE GREEN BOOK that quickly became an Essential guide for African American travelers.

Published annually between 1936 and 1966, by Victor Hugo Green, a postal worker from New York City, the actual titles of these guides varied and included; The Travelers' Green Book, The Negro Travelers' Green Book, and The Negro Motorist Green Book. These comprehensive directories listed SAFE places where African-Americans traveling in the U.S. could find: a room to sleep, food to eat, even service stations to get gasoline or use public restroom facilities.

During the mid 1900s, as all Americans began traveling internationally and domestically in increasingly record numbers, African-Americans were well represented, especially among those in the Drive Market. During this period, the headlines in Black Newspapers across the country reported countless incidents of  harassment and harm inflicted upon African-Americans traveling on the nation's expanding roadways.

            The very lives of African-Americans were literally at risk when they ventured outside of their immediate home environment. Clearly they were not welcome at business establishments across the country. The original GREEN BOOK was the essential key that allowed Black Travelers to enjoy The FREEOM of Travel.

Calvin A. Ramsey, author, playwright, renowned Green Book Historian and co-producer of The GREEN BOOK Chronicles, a documentary film about the historic Green Book, often emphasizes in his lectures that Victor Green longed for the time when his Green Books would be obsolete.

In a foreword to one issue of his early editions, Green wrote: "There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment."

The civil rights laws of the mid 1960s served to eliminate the necessity for African-American travelers to depend on The GREEN BOOK or other such guides for protective purposes. Still some traditional travel patterns of Black travelers remain prevalent today. For example, African-Americans are three times more likely to travel in groups than their general market counterparts. They are also more likely to travel to destinations and venues based on the recommendations of other Black travelers.

While the historic GREEN BOOK was primarily seen as a life-saving guide to provide Black travelers with resources needed to guarantee their safety and comfort, it was MUCH more than that.  In addition to listings for lodging, food and gasoline, these annual guides, featured black-owned businesses and services from hair salons to dentist offices. These little green books were treasures for African-American commerce, creating a unique system for employment opportunities and  economic empowerment that brought study streams of revenue into African-American communities throughout the country.

Candacy Taylor

As a part of her Green Book research project, writer, photographer and cultural critic Candacy Taylor has cataloged nearly 9,000 Green Book COMMERICAL listings, scouted over 3,200 Green Book sites in 48 US states, and photographed over 150 Green Book properties. She discovered that less than one-third of those sites are still standing and fewer than 5% are still in operation. (Many of them are referenced or featured in The NEW GREEN BOOK).

African-American service station attendants

According to the U.S Travel Association, today the travel industry generates $2.4 trillion in economic output and supports 15.6 million American jobs nationally.  It is estimated that the African-American segment is valued as a $56+ billion annual market. Yet the question remains: HOW MANY of those dollars go back into the Black community?

For over 25 years Black Meetings & Tourism has tracked and reported on the BUSINESS of travel, as it relates to the African American market and clearly we can say without hesitation, very few of the billions of dollars Black people spend every year on travel are invested in Black businesses or used as leverage to create employment opportunities for Black communities. The best figures to be found indicate that less than 2% of every dollar spent by African-American travelers is returned to their communities.

Thankfully, that is about to change. Introducing ….The NEW GREEN BOOK a mobile app and digital directory, going beyond the Freedom of Travel to the Freedom of Choice, urging People of Color to CHOOSE to make their dollars count by directing their business to those companies that embrace and support DIVERSITY and INCLUSION in the Travel, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry. This convenient electronic GUIDE will undoubtedly become the ESSENTIAL travel tool for the vast majority of Black Travelers, as they characteristically go where they are: Invited, Welcomed and Valued. 

The NEW GREEN BOOK African-American Travel Guide, is an engaging, colorful, interactive, information-packed electronic directory and mobile app that will serve as a guide for African-American travelers. It will feature those destinations, venues and attractions that have demonstrated their appreciation of the African-American market through their commitment to diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, advertising, sponsorships, promotions, and community involvement. Included will be contact information for:

  • State Departments of Tourism
  • International Tourist Boards
  • Select Lodging Properties
  • Destination Convention, Visitors and Travel Bureaus
  • Black Owned & Other HOTELS and BED & BREAKFAST Locations
  • African-American & Black Chambers of Commerce & Business Associations
  • Facilities for Meetings, Conferences, Reunions & Conventions
  • African-American Heritage and Historic Sites & Venues
  • Finding an African-American TRAVEL AGENT and/or TOUR OPERATOR
  • African-American cultural festivals & events
  • Places of worship
  • Transportation services

Additionally, The NEW GREEN BOOK (NGB) mobile app and digital directory will be available in a downloadable format and provide links to resources for Black visitors to any city who might be seeking out an ethnic hair salon, a soul food restaurant Black cultural events art & entertainment. This app and directory will offer connections for a traveler to do business with an African-American owned florist, transportation company, dry cleaners, or other type of business.

There is a compelling motivation for African-American travelers to ensure that their travel dollars help to economically empower Black communities in much the same way as did the Historic Green Book. The NGB will serve to bring a revenue stream into the African-American Communities nation-wide.

It is tremendously important to have dollars come into and be recycled as many times as possible, within an area. Economically prosperous neighborhoods have better schools, resources and services in general. Studies show Black and Brown individuals supporting businesses that are owned by people who look like them is a key component to the financial strength  of the communities in which they live.  An excellent example is that of  the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, (AAHOA). This collective body of over 17,500 members is the largest hotel owners association in the world. AAHOA members own almost one in every two hotels in the United States.

In a 2015 study, the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth reported that $1.2 trillion is the annual buying power for African-Americans. That number is comparable to the gross domestic product of countries such as Spain and Australia. Crystal Mitchell of Recycling Black Dollars, a Los Angeles based organization, points to studies that show the average Black dollar lasts only hours within the Black community.

In 1940, four years after the historic Green Book was first published, nationally, there was a sprinkling of hotels that welcomed African-American travelers, and a much more substantial number of "tourist homes" owned by people of color. Currently, according to Andy Ingraham, president of The National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD) , there are over 800 domestic and international hotels, under various brands, that are "Black-owned."  The NEW GREEN BOOK connects you to them). If you want to secure the services of a professional travel agent/specialist, or to know what cities have Black mayors, or learn about Black travel Groups, The NEW GREEN BOOK will provide you with that information.

Certainly in today's world where African-Americans freely travel to any and every part of the globe, stay in the finest hotels and take first class cruises,

to some, the concept of the original historic Green Book may seem outdated. But rest assured when you and your friends visit Baltimore, hold your family reunion in Fort Lauderdale, enjoy Spring Break in Miami and/or host a meeting, conference or convention in Los Angeles, you contribute to the economic impact of destinations where African-American travel professionals are prominently positioned in roles of leadership.

When you or your group stay at Washington DC's newest and largest convention hotel, the Marriot Marquis, or take advantage of the attractive nightly rates at the Doubletree Largo, less than 30 minutes from the heart of DC, you support equity in employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the Lodging/Hospitality industry. 

If you're planning a "Girlfriends Spa" Getaway, consider going to the luxurious Salamander Hotel & Resort in Middleburg, VA, or enjoy a  health restorative time at  a Beverly Coleman wellness retreat in beautiful Sedona, Arizona. You will be investing your travel dollars to generate revenue for people of color and empowering businesses to provide employment and career development opportunities for people of all colors, races, and ethnic backgrounds in a way that helps to create a "playing field" in the TRAVEL Industry that has never before been level in any way.

On your next vacation to or meeting in any number of America's cities, be sure to tour one or more African-American sites or venues that are a part of that city's African-American heritage and culture. Most everyone is familiar with landmarks such as the Apollo Theater in NYC, or the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, (several copies of original Green Books are housed there).

Do you know about the Presidio in San Francisco or the Tuskegee Airmen National Site in Tuskegee, AL., which are a part of the National Parks system, or the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati? Let The NEW GREEN BOOK take you to all of these places and many more.

Honor a Timeless Tradition by using The NEW GREEN BOOK as you travel; enrich your life, enlighten and expand the world for your children, and exercise your Freedom of Choice to use your travel dollar$ to create economic empowerment for people of color. After all, the basic color of the American economy is GREEN.

See subsequent issues of Black Meetings & Tourism magazine, the www.blackmeetingsandtourism.com website, the BM&T E-Newsletter and the pending www.newgreenbookfortravel.com website to learn about space and rates for advertising and submitting listings for The NEW GREEN BOOK. Allow us to showcase your business/service to the burgeoning $56+ billion segment of African-Americans who are exercising their Freedom of CHOICE, going BEYOND The Freedom of Travel.

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