Ruth and the Green Book
The picture book inspiration for the Academy Award-winning film The Green Book
Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family's new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren't treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .
Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth's family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook--and the kindness of strangers--Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama.
Ruth's story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact.
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About the Author
Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and, after graduating, worked as an artist for a major greeting card company. His many beloved books form a lasting legacy.
"Ruth is excited to be driving with her parents from Chicago to Alabama in their 'very own automobile--a 1952 Buick!' The trip starts out well, but the family continually runs up against segregation until they learn about The Negro Motorist Green Book, a pamphlet 'to help black people who were traveling.' Ramsey fashions a well-told historical narrative, supported by Cooper's expressive paintings." --The Horn Book Guide--Journal
"Ruth's father just bought a beautiful new 1952 Buick, making it a big day for this African-American family. They are going from Chicago to Alabama to visit Grandma. Ruth is very excited to be traveling, but the family encounters 'whites only' restrooms, hotels, and restaurants along the way. It's very discouraging and sometimes scary, but they learn that some friendly faces may be found at local Esso stations, which are among the few franchises open to black businessmen. At a station near the Georgia border, they are introduced to Victor H. Green's The Negro Motorist Green Book, an early AAA guidebook of sorts that listed establishments or homes that would serve African Americans-be it for general services, housing, or meals. Ruth eventually becomes the Green Book specialist in the family, helping to guide them to an auto-repair shop or an inn that would welcome them. But, the best part of the trip is finally arriving at Grandma's, as illustrated by the loving expressions on all faces. A one-page concluding summary discusses the importance of The Green Book, which was in use from 1936-1964, when the Civil Rights Act was finally signed, banning racial discrimination. The realistic illustrations are done in oil wash on board, a self-described 'subtractive process.' The picture is painted, then erased to 'paint' the final product. Overall, there is a sepialike quality to the art, giving the impression of gazing at old color photos. This is an important addition to picture book collections, useful as a discussion-starter on Civil Rights or as a stand-alone story." --School Library Journal
"An ever-expanding system of roads and highways beckoned to motorists in the mid-1900s, but the glamour of the open road was often illusory for African-American citizens, particularly those traversing the Jim Crow South. In this fictional account of a family trip, Ramsey introduces young listeners to the blatant discrimination facing those travelers, but more importantly, to the network of businesses and individuals who opened their doors with welcome assistance. The Negro Motorist Green Book, devised and expanded by Victor Green, was an invaluable aid, listing black-owned service stations, restaurants, and overnight accommodations. As narrator Ruth and her parents make their way from Chicago to her grandmother in Alabama, the girl becomes adept at using their seventy-five-cent resource and passes along information about the book to another beset traveler they meet at an inn. Cooper's soft, stippled illustrations capture both the pathos of the bigotry and the warmth of the support the family encounters, and a substantial closing note on the Green Book itself invites the audience to explore it further online. This will be a fascinating addition to any civil rights picture-book collection and perhaps even a quick intro to a classroom novel unit on The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (BCCB 1/96)." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"In this powerful picture book, Atlanta playwright Ramsey tells a 1950s story from 'unknown pages in African American history.' Cooper's glowing, unframed, sepia-toned artwork delivers a strong sense of the period from a child's viewpoint. Driving with her parents from Chicago to Grandma's house in Alabama, Ruth is excited until the family is refused access to the restroom at a service station. They face more bitter realities of segregation when they sleep in the car because they are turned away from hotels. The double-page spreads show the hurt, anger, and scariness of the 'No Vacancy' signs, but words and images also capture moments of peace, as Ruth sings and feels safe with her loving parents as they drive across the country. Then they are welcomed at an Esso station, where they get a copy of the pamphlet called The Negro Motorist Green Book, which lists places where black people are welcome. A joyful reunion with Grandma brings the book to a warm close. With a long final note about The Green Book, this is a compelling addition to U.S. history offerings." --Booklist--Journal
"At the core of this expressively illustrated fusion of fact and fiction is The Negro Motorist Green Book, first published in 1936, which listed hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve African-Americans during an era when many would not. Charged with emotion, playwright Ramsey's story opens on an upbeat note, with Ruth and her parents embarking on a cross-country trip in their new 1952 Buick, traveling from Chicago to Grandma's home in Alabama. The family's spirits plummet when they are turned away from a service station restroom and a hotel, and see 'White Only' signs in restaurant windows ('It hurt my feelings to be so unwelcome, ' says Ruth). However, a copy of the Green Book they purchase soon puts them in contact with friendly, helpful people all along the way. A sense of resiliency courses through Cooper's (Back of the Bus) filmy illustrations--beatific portraits of the Esso worker who sells the family their Green Book and the owner of a 'tourist home' where the family spends the night radiate strength, kindness, and hope for a better future." --Publishers Weekly--Journal
"In the early 1950s, newly built interstate highways invited Americans to travel by automobile, but the open road wasn't so open for African-Americans, especially in the South. Ramsey drives this truth home in this story of the journey of a family traveling from Chicago to Alabama by car. 'It was a BIG day at our house when Daddy drove up in our very own automobile--a 1952 Buick!...I was so excited to travel across the country!' Ruth's family encounters many of the obstacles that existed, from whites-only restrooms in gas stations to whites-only hotels: 'It seemed like there were "White Only" signs everywhere outside of our Chicago neighborhood.' The Negro Motorist Green Book comes to the rescue, listing resources for black motorists in every state, and Ruth and her family make their way from safe haven to safe haven until they reach Alabama. Cooper masterfully captures the emotions of the characters, filling his pages with three-dimensional individuals. This story touches on a little-known moment in American history with elegance, compassion and humanity." --Kirkus Reviews--Journal