Victor H. Green, a post office employee and activist in Harlem, published the first Green Book in 1936 for the New York area. The next year, it expanded to cover the whole country. The book listed “hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty shops, barber shops, and various other services” where Black people would be served. 15,000 copies were produced each year (until 1964) and sold to market Black-owned businesses and more friendly White ones like Esso, one of the few gas stations that would sell to Black people.
During the shameful Jim Crow period, when many businesses all over the US refused to serve black people (even in emergencies), the information allowed black families to travel to parts of the US they had only heard of. In the South, knowledge of safe and unsafe areas could be life saving.
Free PDF (1949 edition): The Green Book