HICKORY CORNERS, Mich. — Among the hundreds of classic cars at the Gilmore Car Museum in Barry County is an exhibit unlike the rest.
“When we look at some of the recent events that are happening this exhibit has even more relevance,” Director of Commercial Operations Ken Fischang said.
Figures of a black mom and daughter standing next to a 1948 Buick sedan.
The displays out front tell the story of the Green Book.
“A man named Victor Hugo Green, who was a postman in New York, had gone on a trip with his wife and he had a really difficult time. Imagine if you couldn't get gas at a gas station and people had to carry gas cans in their car, or they have to carry food because they weren't allowed in restaurants or they couldn't find a bathroom. These were all real challenges,” Fishchang explained.
Green began publishing the self-titled book in 1936.
The guide was full of safe places for Black Americans to eat, get gas, rest and stay at across the country during the Jim Crow era.
The museum has a copy of a 1950s version where you can even find the places that welcomed Black Americans here in West Michigan.
“The Green Book is all about how African Americans and people of color traveled in this country under very adverse circumstances, they literally could not go to certain restaurants, they couldn't get gas at certain gas stations, they couldn't stay in hotels and do all the things that many of us can do today,” Fischang said.
A sad but important reminder of where things were just a few decades ago.
“The Green Book pretty much went away in 1964, when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. But as we know today there is still areas of this country that folks of color are not treated equally,” Fischang explained.
“The Gilmore Museum believes strongly that this exhibit that we opened in 2014, six years ago, has even more relevance today in lieu of recent happenings,” he added.
The Gilmore Museum is now fully open, with social-distancing and safety measures in place, to find out more about the exhibit or more events, click here.
The book was also featured in the 2018 movie Green Book, which won an Academy Award for Best Picture.