Book Review: Overground Railroad (The Young Adult Adaptation): The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor
A young reader’s edition of Candacy Taylor’s acclaimed book about the history of the Green Book, the guide for Black travelers.
Overground Railroad chronicles the history of the Green Book, which was published from 1936 to 1966 and was the “Black travel guide to America.” For years, it was dangerous for African Americans to travel in the United States. Because of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or even get gas at most white-owned businesses.
The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, recreational destinations, 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 the stories from those who took a stand against racial segregation are recorded and celebrated.
This young reader’s edition of Candacy Taylor’s critically acclaimed adult book Overground Railroad includes her own photographs of Green Book sites, as well as archival photographs and interviews with people who owned and used these facilities. The book also includes an author’s note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.
This was the first new book I started in 2022 (I spent the first day of 2022 finishing up Danielle Henderson’s fantastic The Ugly Cry) and as I read, I kept thinking, on day two of the year can I really already say this might be one of my favorite reads this year? I think so!
I knew very little about the Green Book until I read Clean Getaway by Nic Stone, which left me wanting to know a lot more. This book filled that need for me and gave me so much more than I was expecting. We not only learn about the Green Book, how it was started, distributed, and used (to make travel safer for Black people and serve as a guide for where to safely stop for a variety of services), but learn so much about everything related to the Green Book. Here are just some of the topics covered: the businesses featured in the book; the rise of the automobile industry and how it affected the lives of Black people; race relations/protests/riots/boycotts of the era; sundown towns; beach and National Park use; Black soldiers in WWII; banking; Black colleges; housing; train travel; music venues; the perils of driving on Route 66; the expansion of freeways destroying Black communities; tourist homes; the Black hair care industry; women-run and women-owned businesses; the KKK and white terrorism; colorism; what the 1964 Civil Rights Act meant for travel; and so much more. That covers a phenomenal amount of ground, right? This is truly a crash course in the politics and race relations of the time.
Taylor also spends the final few chapters detailing life after the Green Book stopped being published. She discusses what integration and what white businesses beginning to serve Black customers meant for those long-standing Black businesses that were now losing customers. She explores the war on drugs, mass incarceration, uprisings and protests, and the continued discrimination of and violence toward Black people.
To learn about the Green Book, as Taylor has shown us, is to learn about the history of segregation and discrimination in the 1930s through 1960s. Readers won’t have to work hard to see the through lines to so many aspects of modern life, and to understand both how far we’ve come and how much is, appallingly, still the same. This beautifully designed book has many brief chapters, extensive photographs from the eras covered, and ads and other material from Green Books. This well-researched book is not to be missed.
Review copy (finished) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: 01/25/2022
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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