For thirty years, at the height of Jim Crow, Victor Hugo Green published the The Negro Motorist Green Book to inform African American motorists of where they could safely find food, fuel, and lodging while driving the nation’s highways and byways. While the last issue came out over fifty years ago, Green would surely be distressed to find that black travelers still find themselves facing discrimination and unique dangers — so much so that the NAACP has just issued a state-wide travel advisory for Missouri.
“You have violations of civil rights that are happening to people. They’re being pulled over because of their skin color, they’re being beaten up or killed,” said Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP. “We are hearing complaints at a rate we haven’t heard before.”
It’s the first time in the organization’s history that they’ve issued such a warning, although other, similar travel advisories have been issued by other organizations since the nation’s attention was called to police killings of black men and women after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The ACLU has issued a warning to everyone about the perils of getting pulled over in Texas. And now the NAACP’s delegates have voted to push the motion forward to the national board, who will vote on it in October. The Missouri chapter has been circulating its own travel advisory since June.
“The advisory is for people to be aware, and warn their families and friends and co-workers of what could happen in Missouri,” Chapel said. “People need to be ready, whether it’s bringing bail money with them, or letting relatives know they are traveling through the state.”
While Missouri might be one of the worst places to be driving while black, the NAACP’s advisory is a response to a broader, national problem. As the senior staff attorney for the Texas ACLU said of that state travel advisory, “We don’t issue them lightly. I think it serves the function of alerting people to what’s going on in the states where they’re traveling, but also advising people of their rights.”