Montreal and the Green Book progress towards openness


Not so long ago, traveling to North America was difficult and sometimes even dangerous if you had dark skin. In 1936, Victor Hugo Green, a New York mailman, wanted to help his fellow citizens by establishing a list of boarding houses, hotels, restaurants, and gas stations that welcomed African-Americans.

green book It has become a real tool of freedom and dignity for black travelers, whether they are business people, artists or tourists.

Many people discovered this story from the American film green book Released in 2018.

Soon after the release of the guide, Victor Hugo Green added good addresses in Canada, first of all in Montreal.

“Montreal was the Canadian metropolis,” recalls Greg Robinson, professor of history at UQAM. It was a place that attracted black Americans for both pleasure and business. ,

When the Montreal Royals baseball team hosted Jackie Robinson for the 1946 season, the city also gained iconic status among the black community.

“The fact that Jackie Robinson was a star in Montreal gave the city a reputation for welcome and tolerance that was not always genuine, authentic,” says Mr. Robinson. Because there was segregation here also. ,

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In the southern states of the United States, from the late 19th centuryI From the turn of the century to 1965, laws institutionalized racial segregation. they were called Jim Crow laws, named after a caricatured black man. In the northern states, segregation was more subtle, but still present.

“Montreal was no exception, it was part of North American culture,” says Dorothy Williams, a renowned historian who specializes in the history of black people in Canada. wasn’t there Jim Crow laws, but businesses can legally discriminate under the Supreme Court’s decision in the Fred Christie case. ,

In 1936, the bartender of a tavern located in the basement of the Montreal Forum refused service to Fred Christie, a black Montrealer. The Supreme Court then ruled that a business had the right to refuse service to some customers.

Montreal And The Green Book Progress Towards Openness
Historian Dorothy Williams is an expert on the history of black people in Montreal. He wrote particularly important books on this subject.

In the history of justice, we find many cases of people who could not buy cinema tickets or, if they could, were made to sit in a separate section. The city was divided not only on the basis of language, but also on the basis of race.

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Dorothy Williams, historian specializing in black history in Montreal

Black artists were not spared. In 1936, when the great singer Marian Anderson was giving a recital in this hotel’s ballroom, she was unable to stay at the Château Frontenac. She must have moved into the Clarendon Hotel, next door.

However, a black middle class was beginning to emerge in North America and many acquired cars to facilitate their travel and avoid discrimination on public transportation. However, he encountered hotel, restaurant and gas station managers who refused to serve him.

  • Cover Of The 1940 Edition Of The Negro Motorist Green Book
    Photo provided by the New York Public Library

    Cover of the 1940 edition of Negro Motorist Green Book

  • In The 1950S, The Negro Motorist Green Book Became The Negro Travelers Green Book To Reflect Different Modes Of Transportation.
    Photo provided by the New York Public Library

    In the 1950s, Negro Motorist Green Book becomes Negro Traveler’s Green Book To reflect the different modes of transportation.

  • In The 1960S, We Saw Big Hotels Being Included In The Green Book.
    Photo provided by the New York Public Library

    In the 1960s, we saw huge hotels green book,


It was for them that Victor Hugo Green launched in 1936 Negro Motorist Green Book An annual guide that was enriched with new addresses with each new edition.

Victor Hugo Green relied on the network of postmen, particularly in the United States, to report good addresses to add to the next edition. He could also rely on a network of sleeping car porters, predominantly blacks, to obtain additional recommendations.

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It’s really helpful to have a guide who tells you who will accept you.

Greg Robinson, Professor of History at UQAM

Montreal And The Green Book Progress Towards Openness
Photo provided by the New York Public Library

In green book We get ads for Esso stations managed by black people.

A large company, Esso, realized the importance of black customers and became very welcoming. In early 1934, Esso hired an African-American, James A. Jackson was hired. Esso service stations begin offering green book And, by the early 1940s, 312 of the 830 Esso retailers in the United States were African-American.

different versions of green book Mark progress towards openness.

Greg Robinson, Professor of History at UQAM

In the 1960s, addresses appeared in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Montreal And The Green Book Progress Towards Openness
Photo provided by the New York Public Library

In the 1956 edition, Victor Hugo Green outlined 20I birthday of green book,

In 1964, the United States Congress passed civil rights Act Which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color or religion.

“As openness became universal, there was no longer a need for green book “, says Greg Robinson.

The Smithsonian, the great American museum institution, has created a traveling exhibition on green book, sponsored exclusively by ExxonMobil (Esso). He can be seen in Los Angeles till March 10. After this she will travel to Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Smithsonian also offers a virtual exhibit.


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