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.
When he and his wife, Alma, traveled from
New York to Virginia to visit family, they risked
getting turned away, yelled at, and even hurt.
Such was the everyday reality for Black Americans.
Often being turned away by restaurants, hotels, and any place with a bathroom when you really really really need to go. Possibly being injured in a car crash in the middle of the night (because you were tired and were turned away from hotels) and not being guaranteed transportation by an ambulance or treatment at a hospital because you were Black.
Keila Dawson writes frankly about what it was like for Black travelers, and she describes how Victor Hugo Green (a postal worker by day) spent years of his life searching for and compiling information about safe places to eat, sleep, and visit that went into his guide called the Green Book. When he died, his wife carried on producing the book until its last edition in 1967.
Dawson points out in the author’s note that while traveling is easier today for Black Americans than it was throughout history, especially during the Jim Crow era, it still isn’t always safe. And currently, new guides for Black travelers are coming out, focusing once again on safety and supporting Black-owned businesses.
The back matter includes a motoring timeline, a brilliant addition by the illustrator, Alleanna Harris. And I love the retro vibe captured by Harris’s illustrations throughout.
And if you look under the dust jacket, you’ll find a cool surprise in the style of the original Green Book. Well done!
Use Keila Dawson’s Educator’s Guide for discussion and extension activities.
Draw your own life timeline, showing important events in your life, using a road like the one in the book.
Pair this book with Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Rachelle Baker.
Title: Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book
Author: Keila Dawson
Illustrator: Alleanna Harris
Publisher: Beaming Books, 2021
Themes: Black History, travel, discrimination
Ages: Kindergarten – Fifth grade
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.