February is Black History Month in the United States and I have always wanting to learn something about our history as Americans that I did not know previously. Well, I found out last month on the Rick Steves’ travel podcast about a travel guide published during the days of Jim Crow. The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Green was published in 1936 until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Green, a mailman by profession, knew about the troubles that black families had in traveling across to country. Mostly from the North to South to see relatives or to take a vacation because of segregation. He published a book to where black families could find lodging, gas, and places to eat to help ease their travels.
I must admit I had never of The Green Book and was stunned (and sadden) when author and playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey (along with Gwen Strauss) wrote a children’s book about this seldom known part of American history.
Ruth and the Green Book is the story a young girl from the 1950s named Ruth and she is taking a trip with her parents from Chicago to see her relatives in Alabama. Along the way, Ruth learns the harsh realities of the Jim Crow era, when she realizes that her father could not gas from white-owned gas stations or eat at white owned restaurants. However, the family reached an Esso Gas Station (owned by the famed Rockefeller family), where an attendant gave them a copy of the Green Book, a travel guide for black families. Ruth and her parents could find places to stay for the rest of trip until they reached their relatives’ home in Alabama.
I read this story with my 9-year-old daughter, Norah and we had a good discussion about this recent past of American history. It is a history that should be taught in elementary and middle schools today and something everyone can learn from regardless of your ethnic background. I’m glad the power of story could reveal a painful part of history that can go deeper than facts or a textbook and can bring home how inhumane humanity can be, unfortunately.
I highly recommend Ruth and the Green Book for 2nd to 5th grade students. I want to thank Victor H. Green for having the courage to publish The Negro Motorist Green Book and Calvin Alexander Ramsey for bringing this part of our past to light.