Read ➮ Overground Railroad Author Candacy A. Taylor –

Overground Railroad Overground Railroad is an impressive tour through a particular chapter in our history one in which black citizens took advantage of their right to own a vehicle and to travel U.S highways But it was not particularly safe for them, especially in southern states, where they were often turned away from restaurants, hotels motels, gas stations and all sorts of local businesses A recent very successful movie The Green Book turned a spotlight on one of the things that made a big difference to these travelers First published in 1936, The Green Book included advertisements and listings from the brave business owners who stood up to segregation and offered their premises and products to these travelers But this is than a story of the Green Book It is also a look at the history of our country the divisions that separated us and the courage of many that united us Historians will be pleased to add this revealing book to their shelves But so will readers interested in human rights, our slow and ponderous steps towards freedom, equality and respect for all, and the deep seated fears and resentments that are still with us as we struggle with this most important challenge today.I met this book at Auntie s Bookstore in Spokane, WA I can t say enough about how wonderful this book is Not only does it explain the history of something that I m going to say most people don t really know about, and not only does it have amazing photography to add to the story, but it uses real people s testimonies to give a personal element and help the reader feel the emotions that all the people affected by Jim Crow and segregation must have felt It was a very emotionally taxing book, making me really think critically about all the history that this country keeps quiet I guarantee it will do the same for other readers But at the same time, through all the heartbreaking stories and realities, you can see the strength of a community of people to fight and work to overcome a prejudiced society That in itself is inspiring. I honestly think I favor reading nonfiction some days over jumping into a well written fantasy novel Civil Rights in America remains one of my favorite topics to learn about because you will never reach the end of all the lives and events that transpired This is primarily because segregation and Jim Crow continually impact the country, despite legal and cultural shifts every few years Overground Railroad delves deep into the history of the Green Book, an African American guide to travel and establishments open to their patronage from 1936 to 1966 There is so much history embedded with its publication that readers who are interested in any part of American history will likely find some enjoyment out of reading this well researched analysis of African American life and travel within the United States for the last ninety years.I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What an absolutely amazing book Candacy Taylor has written a wonderfully readable and eye opening account of a vital publication called The Green Book, which helped the black traveler on the road to find safe accommodations and businesses willing to serve him during the height of Jim Crow oppression The impact of this book went beyond this It also meant investments in black owned businesses that were listed and the resulting economic boost The description of many of these businesses, entertainers, and leaders within the black community is fascinating.It also addresses the topic of racism directly, and her examples should break anybody s heart And it existed at all levels Between 1877 and 1968, the Ku Klux Klan and other white vigilante gangs casually massacred that four thousand black people And by the publishing of the 1948 Green Book, almost 200 anti lynching laws had been introduced into Congress and none of them passed None p.106.But it doesn t stop there It is also a convincing commentary on the extent of racism even today A study conducted in Chicago s hypersegregated neighborhoods found that whites used drugs at about the same rate as blacks did, but Chicago s black community had an imprisonment rate than forty times higher than that for the surrounding white communities p.122 Further, it was discovered that Brooklyn, Chicago, and New Orleans, spent than one million dollars per city block to incarcerate its residents each year, usually located in traditionally black neighborhoods where Green Book sites had been clustered Do you think that maybe just maybe this is part of why Colin Kaepernick took his knee There is much, much to this book than this, and it is certainly not all about racism It is enjoyable, it is sad, it is informative, it is happy, and boy, is it eye opening Anybody who wants try to better understand an experience most of us could never comprehend should read this book I won this uncorrected Advanced Readers Copy from and any reference to a page number may, or may not match the final publication which is due to be published in January, 2020. Review copy received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review As someone familiar with the Hollywood film The Green Book, I wanted to consult a well researched and historically accurate guide that discussed this historical document I should note that while I found the film interesting, it was primarily geared toward making white audiences feel better about themselves Critics, including Don Shirley s family members, were quick to point out that the film stretched the truth in order to make the Frank Tony Lip Vallelonga character played by Viggo Mortensen seem heroic than he actually was by historical accounts It used elements of the white saviour trope, and I m not even going to get into how problematic the fried chicken scene was I wanted to know about the history of The Negro Motorist Green Book written by Victor Hugo Green, the basic premise of which was to let African American road trippers know which businesses or hotels abided by Jim Crow laws so they could avoid them where possible and not have to endure racism, refusing to be served, or in some cases, threats of physical violence and or forcible expulsion and much worse Although the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most readers should know that this didn t exactly lead to idyllic harmony African Americans are still being murdered far too often, particularly by white law enforcement, to this day, which is inhumane and unspeakable Overground Railroad starts off with a white sheriff in Tennessee pulling over an African American man and his family to the side of the road because of the colour of their skin The officer interrogates the father of the family, demanding to know how he obtained the vehicle implying he could not possibly have bought it , and demands to know who the people are with him his family, which he had to pretend were his employer s maid and son The sheriff tells them to move along The author explains that the black hat hanging in the backseat, a chauffeur s hat, was what enabled them to surmount the incident for lack of a better term and that during the Jim Crow era, the chauffeur s hat was the perfect cover for every middle class black man pulled over and harassed by the police It was a survival tool In the event that the sheriff did believe it was Ron s father s car, the rage and jealousy he might have felt at the thought of a black man owning a nicer car than a police officer might have triggered a beating, torture, or even murder In addition to being a helpful guide showing African American travellers where they could go, it was also a compelling marketing tool that supported black owned businesses and celebrated black self sufficiency and entrepreneurship Written in an informative, active, and engaging style, Overground Railroad is a fascinating account of how The Green Book came to be, how it was used, and a personal account from the author s stepfather, Ron, of what it meant to navigate the Jim Crow South The author also relates how even though much has changed since then, it really hasn t As she says, The whole point of the Green Book was to keep black motorists safe on the road, and it s eighty years later, and I can t find a safe place to use the bathroom The author explains the significance that being able to purchase a car meant for African American men, as a mode of transportation in which they would not have to fear for their lives while riding transit such as buses or trolleys, or being subjected to colored sections on vehicles Being able to purchase a car as an African American, however, also incited white anger There was also the matter of purchasing insurance, because many companies in the 1930s refused to insure black motorists The author also talks about the exclusion of African Americans from frequenting other types of businesses, such as movie theatres or golf ranges despithe the fact that George Grant, an African American dentist, made the most significant contribution when he designed the first golf tee, in 1899 The author also explains that while many African Americans did leave the South for better opportunities, there may have been fewer Whites Only signs, but many of the towns they passed through held the same fearful and ignorant attitudes toward them that were prevalent in the South Interestingly, travelling by train was a huge part of the history of transportation as it relates to race, as many railroad companies employed African Americans, but also it featured prominently in Victor Green s guide, and he dedicated the entire 1951 Green Book edition, calling it the Railroad Edition Those readers who have been among the many to discover, thanks to the recent television adaptation of Watchmen that the 1921 Tulsa killing of 300 African Americans was indeed all too real will find the author devotes a portion of her book to the massacre Of particular interest is the chapter devoted to African American women and their use of the Green Book By the 1959 edition, not only were women listing their businesses, but also a woman was in charge of the entire Green Book operation Alma Duke Green, Victor s wife Additionally, the book addresses the issue of colourism, or a prevalence preference in American culture to regard beauty as having light skin Unfortunately, the Green Book was published for twenty five years before a black figure with traditional African features graced the cover The author discusses the nuances of colourism, light skinned African Americans particularly those who could pass for white and how it seeped into black advertising, social activities, and friendships This book covers a vast expanse of American history that readers need to immerse themselves in As well, the author discusses other travel guides aimed at African Americans, including the first black travel guide, Hackley and Harrison s Hotel and Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers, published in 1930 six years before the Green Book The book also features many historical and archival photographs of great significance, which is worth noting Eye opening would be an understatement to describe this book The author also discusses issues of mass incarceration of African Americans, particularly in 2018, and how staggering it is America s struggles with race and social mobility continue As the author says, we still have a lot of work to do Fascinating and heartbreaking, this book needs to be purchased and widely accessible to public libraries and academic ones alike, available in bookstores, and taught in schools It is staggeringly relevant and although many people struggle to understand the current American political landscape, books like this paint a clear picture of how we got to where we are and that these things have not happened in a vacuum. Author Candacy Taylor takes readers on a trip across America and through an important era in America s segregated history with Overground Railroad The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America This book not only charts the rise of African American leisure travel and how this pastime was aided by Victor H Green s Negro Motorist Green Book, it manages to link the past to the present by incorporating historical research, photos, anecdotes, and field research from Taylor s visits to the sites listed in the Green Book The Green Book, first published in 1936, listed lodging and service establishments which provided safe havens for Black travelers courageous enough to venture along America s highways and byways at a time when it was not always safe to do so With Overground Railroad, Taylor, , a cultural documentarian and fellow of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, through artful storytelling puts readers in the passengers seat as she travels through big cities and sundown towns, and relates the true experiences, and many dangers, that Black Americans travelers faced when trying to grab onto this aspect of the American dream The book not only charts the rise of Black middle class mobility through property including vehicle ownership and leisure travel, but the challenges those attempts presented It also details the impact of Eisenhower s National System of Interstate and Defense Highways U.S Interstate Highway System , its impact on U.S travel and American communities, and how the businesses and communities listed in the Green Book have changed over the decades since its publication. This was an interesting and well detailed book about the history of the famous Green Book and first hand accounts from African American individuals and families from the 1920s to the late 1960s This book is divided based on the years that the Green Book was published as well as particular events in American History In each chapter, the book illustrates what African American families had to experience while traveling or returning from war and what businesses were welcoming Mr Green, the founder of the Green Book, and his contributors worked hard to create a sort of guide book for families to avoid hatred, racism and bigotry As I was born way after the events contained in this book, this was a fact filled retelling and analysis of those particular events.Along with pictures of places and real articles pulled from the years that the chapters covers, this book is full of historical facts that would likely surprise people of today Overall, I enjoyed this book and not just because there were images to support the text and show locations that were in operation and became part of this Overground Railroad that sought to keep African American families safe while traveling across the United States.For those interested in 20th Century American History, give this book a try I received this Advanced Reading Copy as part of a Goodreads Giveaway. Living in Japan for the past decade or so, I always find it difficult to express to people what life was and is like for black men and women in America There is always a kind of shock and horror at the endemic racism in America s history and that it lives on even after a black president At this point I m often asked, How did people survive under these conditions How did they have families and lives Not having lived through some of the truly horrible history, I can only imagine that one develops coping mechanisms to deal with the everyday horror One learns where and where not to go and what to do if all else fails Overground Railroad is a fascinating book that deals with one particular way black people dealt with the very real danger of being black in America while trying to live the semblance of a normal life In 1936, US postal worker Victor Green would publish the first in a series over than two decades of travel books called The Negro Traveler s Green Book It was not the first of its kind but it was unique in its thoroughness and ubiquity in the lives of those who used it Filled with black friendly hotels, restaurants, and entertainment spaces, the Green Book was much than simply a travel guide It was in a very real sense a lifesaver when driving through unfamiliar areas Overground Railroad is filled with anecdotes, particularly from the author s stepfather, about instances where travel was deadly serious and not knowing where was safe could have disastrous consequences Right from the beginning we are told a story of the police pulling over her stepfather in an unfamiliar Southern townDon t you dare say a word Ron was sitting in the back seat as his father pulled the car to a stop at the side of the road His father had told him to be quiet before, but this was the first time Ron felt the words reverberate to the pit of his stomach Moments later, the sheriff stood over the well appointed 1953 Chevy sedan complete with all the modern features you read about in the magazines Where did you get this vehicle What are you doing here And who are these people with you the sheriff asked.Ron s father answered, It s my employer s car He pointed to his wife, sitting upright and expressionless in the passenger seat He pretended that she wasn t his wife and said, This is my employer s maid, and that is her son in the back I m taking them home The sheriff took a long, hard look at Ron s mother and then angled his eyes to the back seat A young Ronald sat tight lipped, too afraid to turn his head or even take a breath Where s your hat the sheriff barked at Ron s dad Hanging up right behind me in the back seat, officer The sheriff waved All right Move on As they drove north across the Tennessee border, a sad, eerie silence hung in the air The jovial conversation they were having right before the sheriff pulled them over had stopped dead And although there was no discussion about what had just happened, the gravity of the situation was clear Ron watched Daddy and Mama exchange knowing glances and then turned his head to look at the black, unassuming cap that had been hanging next to him in the back seat ever since he could remember It wasn t until that moment that he realized why he had never seen his father wearing it Mama wasn t a maid, and Daddy wasn t a driver He had a good job with the railroad, and this was their family car Until that day, Ron never paid attention to that cap, but now he realized that it wasn t just any hat It was a chauffeur s hat A ruse, a prop, a lifesaver.During the Jim Crow era, the chauffeur s hat was the perfect cover for every middle class black man pulled over and harassed by the police If Ron s father had told the sheriff the truth that he was driving his own car and that they were a family on vacation the sheriff wouldn t have believed him He would have assumed the car was stolen In the event that the sheriff did believe it was Ron s father s car, the rage and jealousy he might have felt at the thought of a black man owning a nicer car than a police officer might have triggered a beating, torture, or even murder From that day on, Ron noticed these hats strategically placed, like unarmed weapons, in the back seat of nearly every black man s car. With stories like this being part of everyday life, perhaps it is no wonder that Green would always append the tag live to his guide Carry your Green Book with you you may need it It was no idle suggestion Despite the ever present dangers to black travelers and that vaguely ominous sentence however, the Free Book did not trade in fear Along with the listings travelers would need on the road, the guide was often filled with articles about upwardly mobile black men and women, the latest in cars and household appliances, and generally celebrating a good life It was also for most of its life generally apolitical until its later editions in the 1960s As the author attempts to visit many of the sites however, she discovers that most of them have either fallen into disrepair or long since been destroyed Taylor ties this in brilliantly to the seeming unquenchable desire to establish white historical landmarks while black ones are often than not ignored or destroyed Looking at the broken communities today where many of these sites once stood, it is hard not to feel despondent, if not angry, that two different Americas have been allowed to exist side by side for so long As she points it, this degradation in black communities was by design Be it through the practice of redlining where real estate agents specifically underlined properties that were not to be rented or sold to blacks she references James Loewen s research into this practice in his fantastic book Sundown Towns I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in this , or the interstate highway system built in the 1950 s which ruthlessly bisected black communities while leaving white ones intact As she writesSo, when we look at places such as Chicago and wonder why there is so much violence there, perhaps that is the wrong question Given this history, why would we expect it to be any different If you have two plants and you give one everything it needs sunshine, food, and water and barely water the other one, you won t expect the neglected plant to be as robust as the one that received nourishment, kindness, and attention From this perspective, isn t it obvious that the flagrant neglect by state and federal governments bears significant responsibility for the dire condition of inner city neighborhoods throughout AmericaLooking at America in 2020, it is difficult to argue with her thesis While there is no longer a need for a Green Book , it is clear with police brutality, discrimination in housing, and the resegregation of schools, that America remains a country that has yet to live up to its ideals for all of its citizens. The First Book To Explore The Historical Role And Residual Impact Of The Green Book, A Travel Guide For Black Motorists Published From To , The Green Book Was Hailed As The Black Travel Guide To America At That Time, It Was Very Dangerous And Difficult For African Americans To Travel Because Black Travelers Couldn T Eat, Sleep, Or Buy Gas At Most White Owned Businesses The Green Book Listed Hotels, Restaurants, Gas Stations, And Other Businesses That Were Safe For Black Travelers It Was A Resourceful And Innovative Solution To A Horrific Problem It Took Courage To Be Listed In The Green Book, And Overground Railroad Celebrates The Stories Of Those Who Put Their Names In The Book And Stood Up Against Segregation It Shows The History Of The Green Book, How We Arrived At Our Present Historical Moment, And How Far We Still Have To Go When It Comes To Race Relations In America

About the Author: Candacy A. Taylor

Candacy Taylor is an award winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian working on a multidisciplinary project based on the Green Book Taylor is the author of Overground Railroad The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America Abrams Books She is also the curator and content specialist for an exhibition that will be toured by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition

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