Smithsonian exhibit exploring African American travel in the Jim Crow era makes exclusive Northern California stop at the California Museum on nationwide tour
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Nov. 17, 2021: The California Museum’s presentation of “The Negro Motorist Green Book” opening Dec. 4, 2021, highlights Sacramento’s connections to the historic African American travel guide through a supplemental display of artifacts, images and memorabilia. Created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) with author Candacy Taylor and sponsored by Exxon Mobil Corporation, the national touring exhibition takes visitors on an immersive journey through travel in the era of Jim Crow through artifacts, historic images and first-hand accounts. The exhibition’s stories of community, business innovation and creative self-determination will be on display at the California Museum through Feb. 27, 2022, as an exclusive Northern California stop on a nationwide tour through 2024.
“We’re honored to present this important exhibit and to spotlight local Green Book-listed businesses,” said California Museum Executive Director Amanda Meeker. “Our supplemental display adds to the national exhibition with artifacts and historic images of the Oak Park restaurant Dunlap’s Dining Room, along with the Mo-Mo and Zanzibar nightclubs, where Black and white Sacramentans came together to hear jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Charles Mingus. Visitors may be surprised to learn that African American travelers in areas outside the South—including California—needed the Green Book’s guidance.”
In 1936, Victor Hugo Green of Harlem, NY began publishing “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” an annual guide that listed Black-friendly businesses with tips on safe driving, points of interest and civil rights. “The Green Book,” as it came to be known, was helpful and frequently lifesaving to African Americans traveling during segregation.
Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans were denied access to many travel-related businesses and faced navigating “sundown towns,” communities that prohibited African Americans from staying overnight. Between 1890 and 1960, historians estimate there were over 10,000 “sundown towns” from coast to coast, including more than 100 in California.
Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era’s racism and legal discrimination, “The Negro Motorist Green Book” explores how the annual guide offered “travel without embarrassment” for the nation’s rising African American middle class and reveals its pivotal role in facilitating the second wave of the Great Migration.
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The California Museum celebrates the Golden State’s history, arts, diversity and unique influence on the world. Established in 1998, the Museum is home to the official California Hall of Fame and many more exhibitions inspiring visitors to make a mark on history. Located at 1020 O Street in the March Fong Eu Secretary of State complex, galleries are open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Monday through Wednesday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). General admission is $8-10. Plan a visit or get tickets at https://www.californiamuseum.org.