News

New doco takes closer look at the history behind Oscar-winning Green Book

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

In case you missed it, Green Book took out the Oscar for Best Picture yesterday sparking outrage and controversy among many.

The film follows the true story of African American pianist Dr Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali who also won Best Supporting Actor) and his white driver Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) who was paid to escort Shirley during his eight-week concert tour of the South.

The portrayal of the story has been slammed by Dr Shirley’s family, who told Shadow and Act that it amounted to a “symphony of lies” depicting Dr Shirley as “embarrassed by his blackness” despite being a prominent member of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and a good friend of Dr Martin Luther King.

Not to mention the controversial Tweets from its screenwriter and questionable behaviour of its director (all of which you can read about here).

Controversy aside, the film brings to light an important piece of travel history: The Negro Motorist Green Book, a historical travel guide to safe places for black travellers to stop for gas, food, vehicle repairs and stay, published annually from 1936 until 1966.

green-book-covers

Up until 1964, the Jim Crow laws enforced legal segregation between black and white people, meaning most places in the USA were off-limits to black travellers.

According to Lonely Planet, the book initially only covered New York but later expanded to the entire USA, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

The Smithsonian Channel is taking a closer look at the history of the guide in a new documentary called The Green Book: Guide to Freedom.

The documentary, created by New York filmmaker Yoruba Richen will highlight stories from black travellers who used the guide to explore the US.

The documentary has already been previewed in 18 cities as part of Black History Month, according to Lonely Planet, but you can catch it on streaming services such as iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

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