The Oscar for best picture of 2018 went to Green Book. The movie is based on the real life story of the black concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his white driver Tony Lip as they traveled through the South confronting the harsh realities of segregated public facilities. The title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book which was a resource to help African Americans find safe places where they could eat, find gas, and stay overnight while traveling. It was developed by Victor Hugo Green of New York City and published annually from 1936-1966. While the movie draws attention to this important resource, the limited focus of the story does not include the fact that segregated facilities were a reality throughout the country and not just in the South. African Americans faced not just inconvenience but danger just for exercising the right to freedom of movement. The video below provides a more complete glimpse into the world of the Green Book.
The danger of traveling while black is not limited to the world of the Green Book. Tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. On February 26, 2012 he was shot and killed while walking through his neighborhood in Sanford, FL after being confronted by George Zimmerman who thought Trayvon looked dangerous by being a black male wearing a hoodie. Trayvon was unarmed and carried only some Skittles and iced tea. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted on all charges. Since then, the tragic and unjust killing of unarmed black men and women has been repeated many times. While the world of the Green Book is history, we still live in a time when African Americans have legitimate fears about exercising their right to freedom of movement in our society. Ask any black parent about the need to give their children “the talk.” As Dr. King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”