The Negro Motorist Green Book
The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition was on view at the Heinz History Center from May 13 through Aug. 13, 2023.
The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition, presented in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and award-winning author Candacy Taylor, offered an immersive look at the reality of travel for African Americans in mid-century America and how the annual guide served as an indispensable resource for the nation’s rising Black middle class.
Started in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Green, “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was a guide published over three decades that helped African Americans travel the country safely, and with dignity, during the time of segregation. The Green Book was published and distributed nationwide until 1967, providing African American travelers with information on restaurants, gas stations, department stores, and other businesses that welcomed Black travelers – including many in Pittsburgh. In an era of Jim Crow laws and “sundown towns” – communities that explicitly prohibited African Americans from staying overnight – the Green Book offered critical, life-saving information and sanctuary.
Explore rare artifacts from business signs and a vintage vehicle to historic footage, archival images, and firsthand accounts which convey the resilience, innovation, and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence.
Discover the hotels, jazz clubs, restaurants, and more than 30 Pittsburgh businesses listed in the Green Book, including the Hill District’s Terrace Hall Hotel, Harlem Casino Dance Hall, and Palace Hotel.
The Green Book exhibit also featured stunning photography of Black Pittsburghers during the 1930s-1960s, courtesy of the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives and the Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition included artifacts from business signs and postcards to historic footage, archival images, and firsthand accounts to convey not only the apprehension felt by Black travelers, but also the resilience, innovation and elegance of people choosing to live a full American existence. It will bring focus to a vibrant parallel world of African American businesses, the rise of the Black leisure class in the United States and the important role the Green Book played in facilitating the second wave of the Great Migration.
The History Center’s exhibit will also explore the Pittsburgh connections and Western Pa. businesses highlighted within the guide.
The Negro Motorist Green Book is made possible through the generous support of Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Corporate & Foundation Sponsors:
The Heinz Endowments
The Richard King Mellon Foundation
The Benter Foundation
The Burke Foundations
The Double Eagle Foundation