Lynne Thompson: “In 1930, Daddy Drove to California Without Benefit of “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book””

In 1930, Daddy Drove to California Without
Benefit of “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book”

I

Daddy left Chicago with Mr. Rodriguez instead
of his wife, planning to travel Route 66, having
little to less money, and eager to see the Pacific.

When he wanted to sleep, it would have helped
if he’d known Mrs. Mosby’s “tourist home”, 1614
Jackson, Springfield, welcomed weary Negroes.

If he needed gas in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Swindalls
would have been the station for his kind. For a bite
to eat in Amarillo, he would have been given a tip:

“try Tom’s Place, New Harlem, or Blue Bonnet” and
so on across the country. He had no guide; had only
the risk of a rope in Oklahoma City or Santa Fe, N.M.

Because they were driving to California, the Golden
State, maybe they didn’t know many towns within
its borders were “sundowners” and there, “Ain’t No

Niggers Allowed” was the policy. They were headed
to the City of Angels but in others: Burbank, Compton,
Culver City, Dutch Flat, Gold Run, Downey, Folsom,

Lynwood, Inglewood, Orange, Palmdale, and the San
Fernando Valley, they could not eat or sleep. Yet to
make the news: Siskiyou County’s last lynching, 1935.

II

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936,
it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler
information that will keep him from running 

into difficulties and embarrassments, and to make
his trip more enjoyable. There will be a day—
despite the introduction of this travel guide—

sometime in the near future when it will not
have to be published.  That is when there will be
an end to days of difficulties and embarrassments,

when we as a race will have equal opportunities
and privileges in these United States. We trust
sometime in the near future, there’ll be the great     

day when we’ll be able to suspend publication
for then we’ll be able to go wherever we please,
when we as a race will have equal opportunities

and no embarrassments. But until that day comes,
we shall continue to distribute this information,
this travel guide Mr. Green introduced in 1936,
critical directions that kept Negroes from running…

III

It was 1966 before The Green Book printed its last.

*

Poem first appeared in poet’s collection, Fretwork (Marsh Hawk Press, 2019)

(Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher)

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