Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .
Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth's family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook—and the kindness of strangers—Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama.
Ruth's story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact.
At the core of this expressively illustrated fusion of fact and fiction is The Negro Motorist Green Book, first published in 1936, which listed hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve African-Americans during an era when many would not. Charged with emotion, playwright Ramsey's story opens on an upbeat note, with Ruth and her parents embarking on a cross-country trip in their new 1952 Buick, traveling from Chicago to Grandma's home in Alabama. The family's spirits plummet when they are turned away from a service station restroom and a hotel, and see "White Only" signs in restaurant windows ("It hurt my feelings to be so unwelcome," says Ruth). However, a copy of the Green Book they purchase soon puts them in contact with friendly, helpful people all along the way. A sense of resiliency courses through Cooper's (Back of the Bus) filmy illustrations beatific portraits of the Esso worker who sells the family their Green Book and the owner of a "tourist home" where the family spends the night radiate strength, kindness, and hope for a better future. Ages 7 11.