Did you know that Green Book, the 2019 Academy Awards winner for Best Picture, is entitled not after the two main protagonists or any book they authored, but after a guidebook they used on a tour in the 1960s? The film, written and directed by Peter Farrelly, was named so to honor the Negro Motorist Green Book, a book that lists hotels and restaurants that cater its services to people of color in the predominantly racist southern United States. In the movie, it was shown that the book was crucial for world-class African-American and bisexual pianist Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) and his white driver-bodyguard Tony Vallelonga (depicted by Viggo Mortensen) as they went on an eight-week tour in the region and suffered racial and gender discrimination.
The guidebook, authored by travel writer Victor Hugo Green and saw numerous publishing from 1936 to 1966, became important in the middle of the 20th century, when America’s then-booming economy made traveling a necessity even for people of color, be it for business or pleasure. The Green Book became so influential that businesses started partnerships with the publishers for bigger spaces in the book, including Standard Oil, a gas company known for its willingness to serve people of color. Because it became popular and many businesses wanted to make it known they serve African-Americans, the book saw exponential growth in terms of pages, from just 10 pages in the first edition, it grew to be an 80-page book in 1949. But, as the author intended, the book’s importance died out in the late 1960s, after the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which outlawed segregation in facilities. In fact, with so many integrated places, the last edition of the book dropped the “Negro” in the title and was published as Travelers’ Green Book.
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