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And in the North and the West, that system was not as sort of visible, even though it was still there. So I think that the - those sundown towns, I mean, there were - you know, they were all over. And that racism that was throughout the country, these were specific places where African-Americans were either run out of the towns for various reason, or they just never allowed African-Americans to live in that town.
DAVIES: You know, when a lot of us are on a road trip, you take for granted that when it's lunchtime, you know, you could find a restaurant, or maybe you want to grab some food to eat in the car or go to a grocery store and get stuff for a picnic. An African-American family in this era faced a whole different challenges. They really had to think hard and prepare before they left, didn't they?
You know, at the screenings that we've had, we've had people stand up after the screenings and talk about how they remember, you know, their mom wrapping the fried chicken to bring on the road and the fruit that they would bring. And - you know, and they would just drive and not stop, or they knew only where to stop, specific places. We had one woman say, you know, she never knew why we only went to certain places.
But, you know, as she got older, she knew that that was because they were using the Green Book. The family was using the Green Book and only going to the places that were designated. And they did. They had to prepare for these long journeys. That's hard to plan. How did people figure out how to do that? RICHEN: Well, a lot of times there were, you know - you used the Green Book to figure out where you could do that, where there were gas stations and restaurants.
You had to go on the side of the road. I think that one of the things that is interesting is Rosa Parks, before she was, you know, the woman that we know who refused to give up her seat on the bus, she worked investigating harassment of African-American women in the South. And one of the places that African-American women were most vulnerable was on public transportation or on train stations because they could not - they didn't have access to the facilities and had to go in the open sometimes.
So this is a very deep reality that African-Americans lived with and a big - a really big part of our experience that we don't talk about, really, when we talk about the black experience. You know, we have - often have a very narrow lens in looking at African-American history. And I think that the Green Book allows us to look at so much more. One of the men in the book said that when they would travel, he would bring a sheet in case they needed some kind of a screen or barrier just so It premieres at 8 o'clock Eastern time tonight on the Smithsonian Channel.
It's also available for streaming on the Smithsonian Channel. We'll be back in just a moment. And we're speaking with filmmaker Yoruba Richen. Her new film, about the travel guide to help African-Americans find places they could stay and eat back in the days of segregation, is called "The Green Book: Guide To Freedom. First, you know, very good at branding, laughter called it the Green Book.
And he was a postal worker based in Harlem. And he had a Jewish friend who had a guide to places in the Catskills where Jewish families could go and have recreation and pleasure and be safe. And he thought that would be a really good idea for African-Americans. He knew that we needed such a guide. He also had a wife named Alma, and Alma had family in Virginia. And they would go, and they'd travel from New York down to Virginia to visit family.
So he experienced what it was like to drive on the segregated roads. It's a big country. I mean, there was no Internet obviously. I mean, it's pretty incredible, right? He did this all before computers. He was kind of the - one of the original crowd-sourcers. He had his network of black postal workers. And that was one of the industries, of course, where African-Americans could break into, the Postal Service.
And he had a network of black postal workers who he would get information from. So you know, where are the black businesses?
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Where are the black communities? Let me know. And they also encouraged business owners to advertise in the book. So these postal workers would be out, you know, delivering mail. And they saw black businesses, and they would tell them about the Green Book and encourage them to advertise in it. And then, a little bit later, he would always say in the Green Book - like, in the pages of the Green Book, he would always say, please send in your businesses.
Sometimes he would target markets that he was looking for. Hey, we need more listings in Springfield, Miss. So you know, it was a real early form of crowdsourcing. And of course, the distribution, he was able to partner with Esso gas station. And Esso distributed the Green Book in its gas stations. DAVIES: Well, that's a big deal because corporate America were not exactly open to, you know, black employment, certainly not black management back then. So Esso's a really interesting case of how a corporation was really trying to be, like, on the progressive edge.
It was Standard Oil then, and it was owned by Rockefeller. Rockefeller was one of the owners. And Rockefeller was married to a woman. Her last name is Spelman. They were from a family of abolitionists. So there was a history of working to advance racial African-American rights that Rockefeller had. And he hired black chemists very early, or Esso did. They had - they marketed to the African-American community. You know, they were also smart, and they knew that this was a a potential customer base. So he began this in when, you know, the auto industry was booming, and a lot of African-Americans got jobs and could afford cars and were traveling more.
How did he market it? I guess the Esso gas stations were a good way. He eventually printed around 15, copies. And somebody actually got up at one of my screenings too and said, you know what? It's also important to remember that not everybody bought a copy. They would share a copy, so they would pass it to their neighbor, to their family member who was traveling, you know, who was about to take a road trip. And I think it was word of mouth. And the businesses had had them as well. And so I think it became - he had distributed 15, copies because of the Esso connection. That really, you know, gave it a visibility that I think other travel guides didn't necessarily have.
Because there were some other black travel guides too, but the Green Book was the one that was the most well-known. I mean, Victor Green started in New York. He started with New York listings because there were places even in Harlem at the time that African-Americans were not allowed to go to. Even in the, you know, African-American Mecca, there was segregation, de facto segregation.
So he started with with New York listings. And then, soon it went all over the country, really by the second or third edition. And then he was all over the world. By the end, he had incorporated Europe, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean. And I think it's also important to know too that he started it as - it was called the Negro Motorist Guide. And then, really by the early s, he incorporated the Negro Motorist Guide to Travel and Vacation. So that's another part of it too, that it was - the guide helped African-Americans go to and find places where they could have vacation and leisure and recreation.