Chances are you’ve seen or at least heard about the recent movie Green Book, which drew attention to a series of travel guides published between 1936 and 1966. These guides listed businesses where African Americans would be welcomed and where they could avoid various kinds of mistreatment and humiliation. A new exhibit at MSU Libraries digs a little deeper into that history and offers visitors an opportunity to see a map of all 86 Detroit locations and five Lansing locations listed in nine editions of “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” The exhibit also presents a side-by-side comparison of before-and-after pictures of the businesses, showing what they looked like 50 or 80 years ago and what they look like today. The physical exhibit is on display through November in the Map Library, located on Two East in the Main Library. Dean of Libraries Joseph Salem said the exhibit offers visitors an opportunity to explore and expand their thinking about and understanding of the hardships faced by black travelers here in Michigan.
“The exhibit encourages a conversation about our own local history,” Salem said. “It gives visitors – students, faculty, staff, community users, and other researchers – a new way to map that history. It also serves as an important model of how we can use and share the resources in our Libraries to expand conversations about equality and inequality.”
MSU Head Map Librarian Kathleen Weessies, who created the exhibit, said she’s excited about how visitors might interact with the exhibit. “This display offers visitors a fascinating way into history,” Weessies said. “I hope it opens up a deeper understanding of how maps can be used to help us understand both our past and our present, and to help us see connections between people, places, and events. I’m also delighted it will support an event for an MSU student club. We want to work in partnership with other campus organizations, and this exhibit is a great example of how we can do that.”
The exhibit will coincide with a visit from filmmaker Yoruba Richen, who will share her new documentary, TheGreen Book: Guide to Freedom, November 14 at 7 p.m. in the Pasant Theater. She’ll also meet with members of the MSU student club Supporting Women in Geography. Weessies created an online interactive map to support this visit:
The MSU Map Library houses a collection of general and thematic maps and atlases for every area of the world. The collection consists of over 250,000 sheet maps, 14,000 folded geologic maps, and 4,000 atlases, gazetteers and other reference aids including wall maps, globes, CDs and Internet-accessible resources. The collection is especially strong in Michigan, United States, Canada, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, though all areas are collected at some level. The sheet map collection includes maps from the 17th to 21st centuries. Major collections include international topographic and geologic maps,United States Geological Survey topographic maps, U.S. Department of Defense maps of countries around the world,United States Geological Survey geologic maps, Michigan county plat books from 1859 to the present, and rare and antique maps.