Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Taylor has done America a great service by documenting the history of The Green Book and what remains today of the locations it listed. The Green Book, published from 1936 to 1967, was a guide for black travelers, showing businesses that welcomed African Americans. It allowed them a degree of the safety and support they needed to enjoy travel despite the constant potential for being targeted with racial hatred and violence. In its later days, it also became a voice for demanding civil rights. Taylor’s details about the development and use of the book are fascinating, but her work entails so much more. She's created an impressive history of the African American economic progress which grew from having and working with automobiles, and from the increasing mobility and business opportunities they afforded. It's also personal for her, inspired by her stepfather Ron, a decorated Vietnam marine whose stories amazed her and moved her to travel across the country while searching for Green Book businesses and photographing them herself. Taylor is adept at using the past as a context to understand race in America today and what we can do to fight for equal treatment. Most importantly, this book is a smart and deeply affecting look at black people's long and agonizing struggle to get basic respect and justice. More than any book I've read, Overground Railroad made me understand the endless, malicious obstacles put in the way of basic living, solely because of skin color. It's a powerful book. I'm already eager to read it again.

— Tim McCarthy


A New York Times Notable Book of 2020​

The first book to explore the historical role and residual impact of the Green Book, a travel guide for black motorists 

Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America.” At that time, it was very dangerous and difficult for African-Americans to travel because black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America. 

About the Author

Candacy Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian. Her work has been featured in over 50 media outlets including the New Yorker and The Atlantic. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants including The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in Denver, Colorado. Visit her website at taylormadeculture.com and follow her on Twitter @candacytaylor. 

Praise For…

"With passion, conviction, and clarity, [Candacy] Taylor’s book unearths a fascinating and true—if not willfully obscured—history of African American activism and entrepreneurship in the United States. This remarkable study broadens our understanding of black life, leisure, and struggles for equality in twentieth-century America, presents the Green Book as a social movement in response to a crisis in black travel, and makes a compelling case for the need to protect more diverse African American sites that have been heretofore underappreciated."

— Brent Leggs

“…a fascinating history of black travel.. telling the sweeping story of black travel within Jim Crow America across four decades.”

— The New York Times Book Review

“In scope and tone, “Overground Railroad” recalls Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns…At its center, the book is a nuanced commentary of how black bodies have been monitored, censured or violated, and it compellingly pulls readers into the current news cycle.”

— The Los Angeles Times

“Taylor, previously a Harvard fellow, gives the topic the context and meticulous research it deserves, while keeping an eye on current race relations.”

— National Geographic

“The strength of this book about a book lies in the street-level views through which the American road unspools in all its compromised glory.”

— The Economist

"A fascinating look at a groundbreaking guide."

— The New York Post

“…her book is a moving and needed history. The overt white nationalism of our era highlights the covert racism that never went away.”

— Bookforum

"An enriching look at African American history through the lens of the black motorist, and as one of the few books on the subject, this is essential for most collections."

— Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Overground Railroad is an eye-opening, deeply moving social history of American segregation and black migration during the middle years of the 20th century.”

— BookPage, STARRED review

“The overarching story of the Green Book reminds us that individual acts of bravery contributed immeasurably to standing up to segregation.”

— The Daily Beast

“In offering tangible actions readers can take, Taylor has created a valuable document that, like The Green Book itself, serves as a bittersweet handbook of resilience in the face of injustice.”

— Chapter16.org

“If ‘making a way out of no way’ is a theme that runs throughout African American life, few things encapsulate that theme more powerfully than the Green Book. A symbol of Jim Crow America, it is also a stunning rebuke of it, born out of ingenuity and the relentless quest for freedom. Candacy Taylor’s own quest for Green Book sites throughout the United States reveals her own relentlessness as well as a potent gift for bringing these sites, and the black past, alive.”

— Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Overground Railroad is an extraordinary reckoning with the America that whites have always believed existed, and with the America that blacks actually experienced, navigated, and made theirs despite every barrier.”

— Heather Ann Thompson

“Candacy Taylor’s cleverly titled, heroically researched Green Book travelogue should be indispensable reading. The Underground Railroad carried tens of thousands of slaves to freedom. Taylor’s Overground Railroad transports their twentieth-century descendants to the Jim Crow reality of a hypocritical country. Her stunning book compels us to wonder where the ride is taking all of us now.”

— David Levering Lewis

“Published during the period of Jim Crow segregation, the various editions of the Green Book identified establishments willing to serve blacks, ranging from hotels and restaurants to drugstores and gas stations. Overground Railroad carefully places these operations in their historical and geographic context and provides a wealth of useful information not only for social scientists, historians, students, and journalists who want to examine important aspects of the changing black experience, but for general readers as well.”

— William Julius Wilson

“Overground Railroad reorients the narrative of allure surrounding Route 66 in order to account for the grim reality of the violence that black people faced on that old American road.”

— The Atlantic

Product Details
ISBN: 9781419738173
ISBN-10: 1419738178
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publication Date: January 7th, 2020
Pages: 360