Worcestory Lesson: Green Book, Hotel Worcester welcomed blacks visiting city in the ’40s

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The outsiders’ perspective of guide books and first-person travel accounts make them very attractive sources to historians.

Their writers have the same desire to experience a place, and oftentimes ask the same questions as we do looking back today. In particular, there’s been a renewed interest in studying the role of travel as part of the 20th-century African-American experience. While Worcester was not a major travel destination, there were many people moving through the city by both car and rail.

There were no guarantees for travelers of color in the 1940s.

Prior to passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 local laws or regulations could segregate service. Even in areas without legally defined segregation — as in much of the northern United States — local practice and racial bias could be used as reasons to deny accommodation.

Cover of the 1947 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book. “Carry your Green Book with you…you may need it…”

Courtesy New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Cover of the 1947 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book. “Carry your Green Book with you…you may need it…”

Imagine arriving in an unfamiliar city not knowing if the restaurant around the corner would serve you, or if the gas station would fill your car. This could make travel extremely stressful, difficult or even dangerous.


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