When we think of road trips, the smell of gas stations, the mouthwatering taste of cheeseburgers, and the occasional squabbling with our siblings come to mind. This was especially the case in the 1950s when car ownership peaked in U.S. households. For most families, road trips were rollicking adventures filled with moving landscapes and incomparable memories. For Black families, however, they were perilous.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting's digital-first series Safe Haven: Louisiana's Green Book gives viewers an inside look at how Black families travelled across the country during the Jim Crow era, particularly in Louisiana. Simply put, travelling was a dangerous pursuit for Black families, mostly due to segregation, racial profiling, and the existence of sundown towns, which imposed curfews on Black people.
Created by co-producers Emma Reid and Kara St. Cyr, the series highlights the history and purpose behind Victor Green's The Negro Motorist Green Book, which compromised a range of safe destinations for Black families to visit. Some of the many "safe havens" for Black families traveling to Louisiana included The Dew Drop Inn & Hotel, Poro's Beauty School, and Horatio's Esso Service Station No. 2. This helped Black families to not only find a place to frequent but also steer away from potential racial violence.
"It's hard to believe if I would've traveled just 70 years ago, this little guide could potentially save my life," St. Cyr said.
It's also worth mentioning that ExxonMobil helped make road trips safer for Black families by selling them green books, offering service to Black motorists, and hiring Black employees who would potentially become scientists, engineers, and marketing executives for the company--so it's no big surprise that ExxonMobil Baton Rouge helped sponsor the series.
"[We] really wanted to focus on our state's role, and we knew LPB could help," Stephanie Cargile, public and government affairs manager for ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, said. "It's an important part in the history of race relations in our state."
Along with the Friends of the Capitol Park Museum, LPB invites you to a free screening of the digital series on Saturday, November 13 from noon to 3 p.m. The event will take place in conjunction with the immersive Smithsonian traveling exhibit "The Negro Motorist Green Book," which is currently on display at the museum.
"I can appreciate my ancestors even more now that I understand the sacrifices they made just to live," St. Cyr said.
For more information about the screening and to register, visit lpb.org/programs/green-book.