The Importance of “The Green Book: Guide to Freedom”

By Taylor Rhodes, Education Initiatives Manager at United Way of Central Indiana


Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black leaders, voices, experiences and excellence. But reflecting is not enough. We must continue to learn from the past and work towards amplifying Black voices and combat racism.


At United Way of Central Indiana, employees have gone through an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion training, participated in Understanding the Roots of Racism webinars, and are currently engaging in a conversation about The Negro Motorist Green Book, also referred as just The Green Book.


In the 1930s, during the era of Jim Crow laws, a Black postal carrier from Harlem named Victor Green published a book that was part travel guide and part survival guide. The Green Book became “the Bible of Black travel”.


The annual guidebook was first published in 1936 and helped African Americans safely navigate the roads of a segregated country. Green wrote this guide to identify services and places relatively friendly to African Americans so they could find lodgings, businesses, and gas stations that would serve them along the road.


The Green Book provided comfort and safety for many.


United Way staff are watching and examining the 2019 documentary, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom directed by Yoruba Richen. The film does a phenomenal job of telling the story of Victor Green, The Green Book and its importance.


It depicts honest and authentic witness stories of African Americans during the 1930s to 1960s.


I want to emphasis this is a documentary. I won’t call it a movie because when I hear that word, I automatically think what I am watching is fictional or loosely ‘based’ on a true story. The Green Book: Guide to Freedom documents real life and experiences of real people. It is fact, not fiction.


At our upcoming internal United Way Factual Friday discussion, we will have an in-depth conversation around the film. We will share with each other our personal stories and what we have all learned. We will examine general themes seen throughout the film including: sundown towns, travelling while Black, and Black entrepreneurship.


Through this genuine conversation our intent is to build and nurture a more equity-minded workplace and culture.


We want to empathize more with each other. We want to keep moving forward on our personal and organizational equity journeys. We all have room to grow. We want to educate about and celebrate different African American experiences. This film helps us to provide a space to do both – education and celebrate.


I would recommend The Green Book: Guide to Freedom to anyone who wants to learn, celebrate, and uplift Black voices and stories.