[Marxism] How an Artist Learned About Freedom From ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’

Dennis Brasky dmozart1756 at gmail.com
Sat Jan 20 17:56:49 MST 2018

On a recent wintry morning, the multimedia artist Derrick Adams
sitting in his cozy basement studio in Brooklyn talking about distant
cities and faraway times. “It’s like reading a fairy tale book. I see the
names of beauty schools and men’s clubs and taverns, and I think, ‘What
does that place look like?’”

Mr. Adams was referring to the establishments listed in the “The Negro
Motorist Green Book,”
<https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/the-green-book#/?tab=about> a
series of AAA-like guides for black travelers published from 1936 through
1966, and the inspiration for “Derrick Adams: Sanctuary,” an immersive
installation opening at the Museum of Arts and Design
<http://madmuseum.org/exhibition/derrick-adams-sanctuary> (known as MAD) on
Jan. 25.

Widely used at a time when African-Americans were navigating physical and
social mobility through the swamp of Jim Crow laws and attitudes in the
mid-20th century, the Green Books, as they came to be known, listed
businesses from gas, food and lodging to nightclubs and haberdasheries that
welcomed African-Americans when many did not.

While they reflect a disturbing reality of American history, the books also
offered the hope of partaking in the American dream. “They enabled
African-Americans to travel like Americans and to feel American,” the
artist said.

If for Lawrence liberation meant freedom from Southern oppression, for
Green, the creator of the Green Books, it meant the end of his business.
“There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not
have to be published,’’ he wrote in the 1949 edition. “That is when we as a
race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It
will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go
wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”


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