The Green Books Project

Joint with Lisa Cook, Trevon Logan, and David Rosé

Abstract: Recent unrest following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the subsequent evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement has thrust the pervasiveness of racial inequality into the public’s eye.  We study discrimination in public accommodations during Jim Crow to better understand the issues underlying discrimination today.  We construct a new measure of discrimination based on establishment counts listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Books”.  The Green Books were annual travel guides that listed restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and bars that were friendly to African Americans during the 1937-1964 time period.  We combine these non-discriminatory establishment counts with secondary data sources to address a variety of questions relating to discrimination in public accommodations prior to the Civil Rights Act.  This project is ongoing.

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Figure: The number of non-discriminatory (Green Book) establishments per 1000 black residents in 1950.  Establishment counts are collected from the 1950 Negro Motorist Green Book and the number of black residents comes from ICPSR’s Historical, Demographic, Economic, and Social Data.