Victor Green, the Post Office, and the Spirit of Connecting

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Today’s adults may still remember when the internet, social media, Skype, and Twitter weren’t even in existence, much less affordable and available to virtually everyone. But first-hand memory of “those days” will fade in the not-too-distant future.

Worldwide communication webs were once far-fetched, even crazy notions, coming from sci-fi writers or other dreamers. Yet long before those visions of technology, humans persistently invented various practical ways to connect to distant others, using whatever resources were available that time and place.

Facing the harsh realities of Jim Crow in 1936, Victor H. Green, made a constructive decision that he put into action for nearly 30 years: connect like-minded people by promoting safe and enjoyable travel for African-Americans throughout the United States, and eventually the world, by publishing travel guides. As a WWI veteran and then a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office for over 40 years, he ingeniously used his network of contacts throughout the country to gradually develop lists of motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that would welcome African-American patronage. The early editions focused on New York City where he initially sold them for a quarter at ESSO gas stations. His wife, Alma D. Green, appears to have actively supported and been involved in this venture from the start, taking over as editor in 1952 when Victor stepped away from that role.

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More listings and features were added over time to include Green’s own reservation bureau and tour services along with a variety of articles, such as tips about vacationing in locations from New York and Chicago to the Bahamas. Many editions also profiled supportive businesses, such as ESSO and Ford, as well as personalities like late-night radio DJ, Joe Rosenfield Jr. and his “Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange” (see below), broadcasting on NYC’s WMGM from midnight to 2:00 a.m. Given that many African Americans felt safer driving at night than during the daytime, a radio show like Big Joe’s would attract many midnight travelers. Both black and white-owned businesses ran advertisements in the Green Books, selling a variety of products in addition to travel services.

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Above: Pages from the 1955 Negro Travelers Green Book highlighting the midnight radio show, “Big Joe’s Happiness Exchange”, ads Green’s Reservation Bureau, and Sightseeing in New York tours / Pages courtesy of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library (MARBL) at Emory University, Atlanta GA with special thanks to Randall Burkett, Curator of African American Collections / Below: Shoe ad from the 1963-64 edition and cover from the 1966-67 International Edition / Courtesy of the New York Public Library / Schomburg online collection

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At this writing, there is very little known, at least publicly, about the specific person, Victor H. Green, original editor/publisher of “The Negro Motorist’s/Traveler’s Green Book”… but we are working with others to help change that. Our interviews in New York City in the summer of 2015 were the first time we were able to connect with anyone even remotely related to Mr. Green. We were fortunate to interview Ramona Green, a niece by marriage, who remembers meeting Uncle Victor at her wedding, but only several times after that, since he passed away in 1960. Also interviewed was Brian Green, Ramona’s grandson who strikingly resembles a young version of the one photo we have of Victor H. Green.

Calvin Ramsey made key connections with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union, first with Orlando Gonzalez in New York City, who then referred Calvin to Mike Shea, editor of the NALC national newsletter, based out of the organization’s headquarters in Washington, DC. According to an email to Ramsey from Shea in late July 2013, “Orlando found an old card in the New York branch files that showed that Green was a member of NALC while working at the Post Office.” This discovery set in motion a further search by Gonzalez, who wrote the following email shortly afterwards, confirming that while Green lived and published the “Green Books” in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, he was employed as a letter carrier for many years in Hackensack, New Jersey:

“PAYDIRT! Couldn’t be HAPPIER! Glad it wasn’t to good to be true. We have to thank Jeff Fox, Bruce Didriksen and Anibal ‘Sonny’ Guadalupe for their persistence with this. Sonny pointed out that we should look in the Postal Record Memoriams for proof. When we saw a ‘1964?’ as year of death we decided to go through year by year forward and backward and sure enough we found this.”
Gonzalez and his associates had located an NALC Memoriam from 1960 stating that Green was indeed an employee at the Hackensack location and had passed away that year. Calvin speculates that Green’s daughter probably continued publishing the “Green Books” until the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, as her father would have wished. Orlando, Mike, and their colleagues at the NALC are developing numerous events and tributes to Victor Green and, as you can see in our News and Events Archives sidebar, invited Calvin to speak 8/26/13 at their national NALC meeting. We look forward to continuing these connections with our NALC friends and hope that when “The Green Book Chronicles” is completed, our film can add to the tributes.
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If you know anyone from Victor Green’s family or who worked with him, please connect with us at the email addresses listed in the sidebar. We certainly want to honor and respect Green’s descendants and colleagues as we celebrate his dedication to connecting people around the world!
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2 thoughts on “Victor Green, the Post Office, and the Spirit of Connecting

  1. Diana Morgan says:

    It was so exciting to learn the history of the Green Book and discover the Author Victor Hugo Green resided in the Cliffcrest, located in Harlem at 938 Saint Nicholas Avenue which is where I have resided for the last twelve years. There are residents in this building that have been here for over fifty years. There is lots of rich culture and history in this building it should have landmark status.

    I would love to find out how to acquire this Landmark Status for 938 Saint Nicholas Avenue,
    Victor Hugo Green’s Residence when the Green Book was published.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ms. Morgan – Wow, it is so great to hear from someone who lives in the Cliffcrest! I am imagine there is indeed wonderful history associated with that building, not the least of which is that Victor Green and his family lived there. Are you attending the free First Annual Victor and Alma Green Appreciation Day at the Morris-Jumel Mansion today (Sun. 11/18) from 3:00 to 6:00? My production partner, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, is hosting this tribute and if you don’t already know him, I’m sure Calvin would love to meet you and hear about your experiences with and ideas about the Cliffcrest! I’m based in Atlanta and unfortunately not able to attend today due to teaching job responsibilities. But I am so glad you reached out to us! Thank you 🙂 — Becky

      Like

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NEWS and EVENTS

April 5, 2018: Museum of Arts and Design, New York City (NY) “The Green Book Chronicles: Screening and Discussion with Calvin Alexander Ramsey” plus a Q and A session with Calvin, Becky, and Maira Liriano (Associate Chief Librarian of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)

March 1 – April 8, 2018: Museum of Arts and Design, New York City (NY) includes new 13:00 sample edit of “The Green Book Chronicles” as part of their show, “Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America” as an on-going screening in their Learning Lounge.

March 1 – April 1, 2018: Pegasus Theatre, Chicago (IL) presentation of “The Green Book” play by Calvin Ramsey http://pegasustheatrechicago.org/productions/the-green-book/

Watch this space for upcoming presentations by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Becky Wible Searles, and other events related to “The Green Book Chronicles”

News and Events ARCHIVE

March 22, 2018: Calvin Ramsey presentation with other children’s book writers at the 14th Annual National Black Writers Conference Youth Literacy Program “Healing, Legacy, and Activism” at Medgar Evers College / CUNY, Brooklyn, NY

November 17, 2017 – March 2018: Becky Wible Searles’ mixed-media xerography piece “Untitled” included in the Whitney Museum (NYC) show “Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Work from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966-1986”

February 24, 2018: Revolution Books in Harlem hosts Calvin Ramsey for a presentation about “Ruth and the Green Book”

February 1, 2018: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati (OH) about Green Book projects, including progress on “The Green Book Chronicles”

November 28, 2017: Calvin Ramsey’s play, “Damaged Virtues: A Cry from Within” reading at the National Black Theatre, NYC about three slave women under the knife of Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “Father of Modern Gynecology.”

July 29, 2017: The APEX Award for Distinguished Service presented to Calvin Ramsey by “Black Meetings and Tourism” Magazine at the 4th Annual International Multicultural & Heritage Tourism Summit & Trade Show in Miami, July 2017.

March, 2017 issue of LOCALE PALATE: FOOD CULTURE OF THE SOUTH: “The Color of Safety: Calvin Alexander Ramsey Chronicles the History of the Green Book” by Jessie Howard with photo by Jimmy E. Searles

February 17-19, 2017: Calvin Ramsey’s “The Green Book” play presented to nearly sold-out audiences at Red Mountain Theatre, Birmingham AL; Keith Cromwell, Director / redmountaintheatre.org

December 2016: Shooting completed in NYC, including interviews with cultural documentarian, Candacy Taylor, Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; musicologist Dr. Albert Vollmer, leader/founder of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band; and Smitty’s Service Center in Newark, NJ, family-owned by African-Americans since the 1930’s.

July 14, 2016 “Reflections on the Green Book” at the MARCH ON WASHINGTON FILM FESTIVAL, US Navy Museum, Washington DC 6:30 – 9:00pm; Panel includes Calvin Alexander Ramsey and screening of new 20:00 Work-in-Progress excerpt from “The Green Book Chronicles”

May 31, 2016: Calvin Ramsey nominated for the NAACP NYCHA Just R.E.A.D. (Recognize Education Achieves Destiny) Literacy Development Endeavor Award for “Ruth and the Green Book”; Ceremony and celebration at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYC July 7, 2016

May 14, 2016: Fundraiser for “The Green Book Chronicles” sponsored by the Len Ragozin Foundation, NYC

April 2016: Calvin Ramsey and “The Green Book Chronicles” are featured in an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Jacinda Townsend: “How the Green Book Helped African-Americans Navigate a Segregated Nation” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/history-green-book-african-american-travelers-180958506/

February 12, 2016: “The Green Book Chronicles” received a production grant from the Len Ragozin Foundation, NYC

December 3, 2015: Calvin Ramsey was interviewed on the WUNC public radio show, “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/green-book-chronicleshttp://wunc.org/post/green-book-chronicles

August 7, 2015: NEW YORK TIMES article by Eve M. Kahn featuring “The Green Book Chronicles”: “The ‘Green Book’ Legacy: A Beacon for Black Travelers” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/design/the-green-book-legacy-a-beacon-for-black-travelers.html?_r=0

August 6-9, 2015: NYC Interviews and Location Shooting for “The Green Book Chronicles” including the Jacob Lawrence “One Way Ticket” Show at the Museum of Modern Art; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and Minton’s

February 18, 2015: Calvin Ramsey presented progress on “The Green Book Chronicles” at the Brooklyn Historical Society (6:30pm)

January 18, 2015 (MLK Holiday): Calvin Ramsey reading of “Ruth and the Green Book” and book signing at the New York Historical Society, NYC

December 7, 2015: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Stanford L. Warren Library, Durham, NC

July 19, 2015 NEW YORK TIMES Travel Section: Feature article about Calvin Ramsey and the Green Book projects with the online version released 7/14/15

January 21, 2014: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, Bronx, NY

January 19, 2014: Calvin Ramsey at the North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC “Created Equal: Freedom Riders” film and guest speakers

August 13 – September 2, 2013: USA Today Special Edition about the March on Washington includes articles about the Green Book and Calvin Ramsey / See complete text in “Stories & Histories” above

September 1, 2013: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Studio Museum in Harlem “Target Free Sundays: Books and Authors, Kids!” / 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027 studiomuseum.org

August 28, 2013: Article about Calvin Ramsey in the Washington Post: www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/road-guide-for-african-american-civil-rights-activists-pointed-way-to-1963-march/2013/08/27/1085a2c4-0f64-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html

August 26, 2013 @ 6:00 pm: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) honoring Victor Green / 100 Indiana Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

June 8, 2013: Calvin Ramsey interviewed on NPR’s “Travel with Rick Steves” / Archive available at www.ricksteves.com/radio/program-archives.cfm

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