Opening at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Two exhibitions devoted to the historical significance of “refuge” and “safe spaces” for African Americans
"Derrick Adams: Sanctuary" and “Mapping the Michigan Green Book"
DETROIT – May 15, 2023 – The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is pleased to present two upcoming exhibitions: "Derrick Adams: Sanctuary," an immersive exhibition that explores the concept of the Black interior, and how domestic spaces have historically provided refuge and sanctuary for African Americans and “Mapping the Michigan Green Book," which sheds light on the little-known history of Black travel during the Jim Crow era.
Before the legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement, Black travelers in the United States faced major challenges unknown to most whites. White supremacists had long sought to restrict Black mobility and were uniformly hostile to Black strangers and travelers. The Negro Motorist Green Book was a guidebook, created by Victor Hugo Green, that listed safe places for Black travelers to eat, sleep, and shop, in a time when segregation and discrimination made travel challenging. "As we reflect on the Black experience in American history, these exhibitions shine a light on barriers to egress largely unknown to those outside of the Black community except amongst it perpetrators. The Green Book represented an innovative response that foregrounded African American resilience in the face of adversity" said Neil A. Barclay, President and CEO.
The Negro Motorist Green Book, The Negro Travelers' Green Book, or simply the Green Book, was an annual guidebook for African American road trippers. It was originated and published by African American New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the era of Jim Crow laws, when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against African Americans especially and other non-whites was widespread. Although pervasive racial discrimination and poverty limited black car ownership, the emerging African American middle class bought automobiles as soon as they could but faced a variety of dangers and inconveniences along the road. Discrimination included refusal of food and lodging to arbitrary arrest. In response, Green wrote his guide to highlight services and places relatively friendly to African Americans.
This is evident in the Michigan listings for towns like Battle Creek, Muskegon and Saginaw, where only tourist homes, and no hotels or motels, were recorded. African American travelers in Michigan would find the “Green Book” an invaluable guide. Detroit saw a great influx of blacks during the Great Migration, generally considered from 1916 to 1970. They moved to Detroit and other northern cities for jobs and to escape segregation.
Derrick Adams: Sanctuary
May 19, 2023 – September 10, 2023
Derrick Adams: Sanctuary is an exhibition of large-scale sculpture, and mixed-media collage and assemblage on wood panels that reimagines safe destinations for the Black American traveler during the mid-twentieth century. The body of work was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for Black American road-trippers published by New York mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the Jim Crow era in America.
Mapping the Michigan Green Book
May 19, 2023 – September 10, 2023
Mapping the Michigan Green Book explores the way Black Detroiters vacationed with a specific focus on Michigan sites found in the Negro Motorist Green Book. The exhibition will feature images and stories about leisure spaces like Idlewild, Woodlawn Park, and Covert, Michigan. Some of these leisure communities are still operational and provide the Black community with a safe place to vacation free from harassment, violence, and discrimination.
Kelly Miner, Marketing & Communications Manager
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
315 E. Warren Avenue, Michigan 48201
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