Candacy Taylor, curator of ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ exhibit. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

One of the nation’s original and most famous roads trailed from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before terminating in Santa Monica in Los Angeles County, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles.

Further research led Taylor to a collection of memorabilia on display at the Autry Museum where one historical artifact fulfilled a daring inquiry to explore how Black Americans traveled on the iconic route during the height of racial terrorism.

An archived edition of “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was quaintly and quietly nestled at the end of the exhibition yet spoke volumes much to Taylor’s surprise. A confirmation from one of her parents that her discovery was already well-known in certain circles, she launched a journey to examine Black entrepreneurship as a result of segregation and discrimination and later became the author of “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America,” which was published in 2020.

Now, the Petersen Automotive Museum has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to present its newest exhibition, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which offers an immersive experience into how the guide served as “the bible of Black travel during Jim Crow” and the reality of travel for Black Americans in mid-century America. The installation opened to the public on December 16, in the Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery on the museum’s first floor.

Started in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Green, “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was a guide published over three decades that helped Black Americans travel the country safely and with dignity during a time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. The exhibition showcases a collection of artifacts, photographs and personal accounts that shed light on the impact of the guide, as well as the challenges Black American travelers faced during the mid-century.

Various editions of The Negro Motorist Green Book are displayed. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

This display also highlights the growth and development of Black American businesses and the significant role played by “The Negro Motorist Green Book” in American history. The traveling exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) is made possible through the support of Exxon Mobil Corporation. The collaboration with Taylor as the exhibit’s curator features visual illustrations from the famous guide series to highlight the experiences of Black American travelers throughout the years.

“It’s important for this exhibition to not just tell the story of hardship for Black folks at that time because even though a lot of these communities were segregated, they were self-sustaining and vibrant. There was music and culture and that’s what made the Green Book so great,” explained Taylor as she toured the space to give the Los Angeles Sentinel an exclusive preview.

The Green Book revealed a diverse range of businesses highlighting everything from nightclubs to haberdashers and liquor stores to drug stores. There was even a dude ranch listed – which at that time was associated with affluence and good living. The forty-acre property that sat on the edge of the Mojave Desert offered Black travelers the popular culture idea of experiencing the luxury and comfort of a sprawling community.

The exhibit cites businesses that were safe for Black American travelers. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

The area had twenty buildings, including lodging, dining, horseback riding, and swimming facilities, along with a fenced-in baseball diamond and tennis court. The owners Nolie and Lela Murray brough the property from a church member with the dream of welcoming troubled city youth who suffered from fear, stress and poverty through offering peace and solitude in the desert.

“It was like a Black yellow pages,” Taylor continued. “Once inside a neighborhood you could get all the stuff you needed for the road. It was a safe zone. These were Black businesses that were thriving. This showing encapsulates that people had integrity and class with a feeling they had their own agency.”

For many, the Green Book was more than a travel guide. It was a shield, empowering Black people to explore their world with more dignity than fear and more elegance than embarrassment.

“This exhibition provides valuable insights into a pivotal moment in American history, and we are proud to welcome it to our museum,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges.

“Visitors will have the opportunity to explore how significant this guide was in providing community and safer travel for the Black community for three decades and how it helped shape our history.”

Taylor concludes the presentation with a dedicated space to inspire preservation and restoration recognizing that approximately 3-5% of the businesses documented within the Green Book are still in operation today. Whether through a resource guide or local newspaper, media is highlighted as the connector of the past to the present with a path towards the future.

The exhibit cites businesses that were safe for Black American travelers. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

“The Sentinel was an iconic and incredible resource for me to do my research, especially for the Los Angeles Green Book sites. I found so much material from photographs, stories, and comments on the social and political networks of the day. I’ve done this project all over the country and although there were other Black owned newspapers, the Sentinel was always my go-to.”

The “Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition has traveled for three years and was on display at the Holocaust Museum Houston and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center earlier this year. The exhibition will be open to the public at the Petersen Automotive Museum until March 10, 2024.


For more information about “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition or the Petersen Automotive Museum, please visit