New ‘Green Book’ exhibit shows a different side to traveling while black

Tacoma is the newest stop for the Negro Motorist Green Book exhibit, which details what travel was really like for African Americans during Jim Crow. #k5evening

TACOMA, Wash. – The Negro Motorist Green Book is on display in Tacoma at the Washington State History Museum. It is part of a traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. (LOCATIONS)

The exhibition is inspired by a national tourist guide first published in 1936. It was designed to help African Americans plan safe travel around cities in the United States.

“Travelling as a black person was a dangerous thing. You didn’t know what to expect. You didn’t know where to go or how they would react when you got there,” said Gwen Whiting, senior curator of the Washington State Historical Society.

The exhibition tells a more nuanced story than that often presented in Hollywood.

The film “The Green Book” introduced many viewers to the life-saving tour guide, but The Smithsonian’s Marquette Folley said it lacked the heart of the true “Green Book” story the exhibition is trying to capture.

“The core of the Green Book was to allow people with style, elegance and grace when they traveled to stay in places that understood that and also had style and elegance,” explained Folley. “I was dismayed that green book companies (in the film) were tied to junk chains, brought down by a bias about what black businesses looked like in the 21st century. They just didn’t look like it.”

Through home videos, images and artifacts, the traveling exhibit attempts to tell the full story – one of entrepreneurship and resilience.

For Washington, the relationship with the Green Book went beyond the role of guide.

“It was also a focus of the resettlement,” Whiting shared. “A lot of people used the Green Book not just for family vacations, but because they were thinking about coming to the Pacific Northwest and they wanted to know both how to plan a trip and what to expect when they get here.”

The Green Book was founded by a postal worker named Victor Green and has been published for more than 30 years.

The exhibition celebrates her importance as an example of brilliance in the face of barriers.

The Negro Motorist Green Book is on display at the Washington State History Museum until June 12, 2022. Admission is free every third Thursday of the month between 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m

The evening of KING 5 celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, TwitterInstagram, email. New ‘Green Book’ exhibit shows a different side to traveling while black

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