Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book by by Keila V. Dawson. Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

“Victor Hugo Green was tired of hearing no. Victor loved the freedom of driving on the open road, but too often the road was closed to him. It was like this for most Black people in the United States.” So begins author Keila Dawson’s informative, stirring children’s picture book about the innovative, resourceful African American man whose desire for justice and the protection of his people inspired him to make a way for them to travel safely when segregation of Black Americans and white Americans was practiced.

When Victor learned of a guide for Jewish people listing stores that sold kosher food—Jewish people were also discriminated against in the 1930s—Victor had an idea: “What if he wrote a book with information about where Black Americans were safe and welcome?”

As a mail carrier in New York City, Victor had many contacts along his route. Wherever he went, he asked Black people in which shops, restaurants, and parks they were welcomed. In 1936, with the help of his wife, Alma, Victor compiled his research into a ten-page guide, The Negro Motorist Green Book, filled with “safe spaces and friendly faces” for Black travelers in New York City.

As word of Victor and Alma’s work spread, people asked them to broaden their scope and include other states in their guide, which customers dubbed the Green Book. For decades, Victor and Alma updated and revised the guide. The 1966-67 Green Book was the last published edition. 

Victor envisioned a day “when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States” and the Green Book would no longer be necessary. Though the guide is no longer used, author Keila Dawson points out that the fight against racism is not over. Illustrator Alleanna Harris’s bold, striking artwork portrays the industrious, optimistic vision of people who won’t settle for the way things are and, instead, strive for justice and fairness for all. 

(Beaming Books)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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