As many of us are traveling the highways and byways to celebrate American Independence Day, I choose to reflect on how amazing it is that I, a black woman, can move about this nation without fear for my safety (for the most part). I hopped in my car and drove from Little Rock to Nashville to see family and friends then moseyed on down to Atlanta for more of the same and will keep on rambling around the southeast until I’m ready to head back to Arkansas.
But imagine if you had to constantly think about where it was safe to stop when traveling on a family trip. This was a reality for my grandparents, not my great or great great grandparents, my GRANDPARENTS. I remember my Grandpa C telling me about having to travel with a gun under his seat in case someone took issue with him and my Grandma traveling to and fro. My Grandpa Gwyn used to carefully plan trips in the station wagon pulling into the black side of town to ask for safe lodging options for his family.
Some families used a tool from back in the day called “The Negro Motorist’s Green Book” to guide people to safe spaces whilst away from home. I salute those brave souls who refused to let fear keep them from enjoying the experience of travel and all of the wonderful perspective it brings.
Thankfully, we no longer have a need for a book like the TNMGB. There are still a few places that you need to make sure you are careful around, but not nearly like back when my grandparents were traveling the country. I’m extremely thankful that those conditions have improved.
We must remember and celebrate the successes we have made in making room for the rights of all in this great American social experiment. We must also remain vigilant so that we NEVER surrender our rights or oppress the rights of others to live full, free lives. That is my American Dream.
~ Marta C. Youngblood