The Green Book: The Originally Airbnb for Black Folks

One of my favorites things to do is travel. I grew up traveling domestically, mostly in the South and Midwest, with my family. Today, if I had unlimited funds, then I’d spend all of my time traveling internationally.

The first travel guide for Black Americans was created by Victor Green in 1936. The Negro Motorist Green Book, or The Green Book, provided information and maps about safe lodging, restaurants, gas stations, and other factors that were a part of travel, for American ethnic minorities, during that time. Initially, The Green Book was in the New York area, as Green was from Harlem, but by the 1950s had expanded throughout the U.S., Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada.

In his initial print, Green wrote about his hope that this book would not always be needed, implying the desire for equal rights. Today, Green would be disappointed. Even within the travel industry, companies like Airbnb struggle with racism against travelers of color. Based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, hosts with more than 5 rooms cannot discriminate against guests based on their race. Airbnb has tried to address this issue with a “Debias Yourself” browser plugin that removes a potential guest’s name and other “racially identifying” information. There efforts have not been successful — just a few weeks ago, #AirbnbWhileBlack was trending on social media.


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