Stanford University
A Microhistory of the Great Migration
A Microhistory of the Great Migration: The 1949 Negro Motorist Green Book Revisited

The Great Migration was a watershed in African American life: over the course of six decades (1910-1970), six million black southerners left the South in search of more meaningful experiences of freedom. I hope to offer a different angle of vision on the migration by bringing to light the places where migrants slept, ate, got haircuts, and danced along the way. I plan to recreate their routes, keeping the following questions in mind: how did the experience of migrating create, nurture, and solidify African American identities? What fractures, contradictions, and tensions within African American identities did the migration bring into relief? What kinds of resources did African Americans draw upon to navigate the constraints of Jim Crow America on the road?

My plan is to follow "The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide," a travelogue that cost $0.75 and offered black migrants and travelers eighty pages of listings of friendly tourist homes, hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty shops, barbershops, nightclubs, and service stations. The need for the “Green Book” became more urgent by 1949 as increasing numbers of African Americans were taking to the road. Victor H. Green, a Harlem postal worker and publisher of the Green Book, printed 15,000 travel guides annually. The last edition was published in 1965, but black travelers continued to rely upon these guides for decades. Revisiting this popular travel guide will reveal the ways that African Americans maneuvered around the humiliations and indignities of racial segregation.
Former Lab Staff:
Celena Allen
Former Research Assistants:
Annie Fryman, Nicolle Richards

Spatial History