During the past year I made a new friend, German Village resident, Aimee Schwab. Through Aimee I learned about her sister, Candacy Taylor, who published in 2020 a book called the Overground Railroad - The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America. A New York Times Notable Book of 2020.
Candacy Taylor's business is called Taylor Made Culture.
Taylor Made Culture produces multidisciplinary projects that enrich, challenge and inspire new ways to think about culture and identity. It is owned and operated by author, photographer, and cultural documentarian, Candacy Taylor.
Overground Railroad examines black mobility and culture through the lens of the Green Book. The project consists of a book (published by Abrams, 2020), a traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution (SITES 2020-2023), and a forthcoming children’s book (Abrams), board game, and mobile app/walking tours. This project has been awarded fellowships from the Hutchins Center at Harvard University (under the direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr.), the Library of Congress, the National Trust, National Geographic, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Park Service, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Graham Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the California Humanities. TaylorMadeCulture.com
Candacy is in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution's nationally traveling exhibit negromotoristgreenbook.si.edu/ The Negro Motorist Green Book made possible through funding from the Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Candacy decided to research storied Route 66, which was one of the original highways of the United States, created in the '20s. It begins in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica. Over the years, the highway has been romanticized and even its name was used for a successful '60s television series. One of Candacy's approaches to learning about an area/subject is to drive there to learn about its past and present. During her exploration of Route 66, she discovered sundown towns and the Green Book.
Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns, gray towns, or sundowner towns, are all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practice a form of racial segregation by excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation or violence. The term came from signs posted that "colored people" had to leave town by sundown.. Wikipedia
Candacy asked her mother and step-father if they had ever heard of the Green Book. Her mother had not, but her step-father, who grew up in the South did know about it and told her some stories from his past.
One of the stories he told Candacy was about his family. His father worked for the railroad, made a good living and owned a nice new automobile. One day the father was driving with his wife in the passenger seat and their 10 year old son, Ron - Candacy's stepfather, in the back seat. A sheriff pulled them over. Ron's father told him to say nothing. The sheriff asked the father what he was doing driving that vehicle. Ron's father responded he was driving his employers car to take the maid and her son home. The sheriff asked him why he was not wearing a chauffeur hat. The father pointed to it hanging in the back of the car and the sheriff let them go. That is how young Ron learned why black families always kept a drivers cap in their automobiles.
Traveling for people of color could often be perilous. Victor Hugo Green (a Harlem postman) saw the need to create a book that would help blacks know where they could get a safe hotel room, buy gas, dine, laundry, auto repair and much, much more. It was called the Green Book. Published from 1936 to 1966.
Candacy drove all over the United States to find Green Book locations. In order to see if they still existed, was in business or repurposed. Seeing the places improved her ability to tell and document the story. She photographed many of the scenes and included them in the book. She is also working on an App that will show where they are located.