ExxonMobil to sponsor Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition of Green Book history

ExxonMobil predecessor Standard Oil Company of New Jersey was the only major retail distributor of The Green Book through its network of Esso stations, which welcomed African-American travelers and provided business opportunities for black franchisees. More than a third of Esso dealers in the 1940s were black and the company employed African-Americans in other roles such as chemists, pipeline workers, mariners and office clerks.

“Esso was a leader in diversity and racial equity in the 1940s,” said Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of ExxonMobil. “At ExxonMobil, we are extremely proud of the part we played in the success of the Green Book. And now we’re equally proud to play a role in ensuring that Americans understand our country’s past and the many lessons it has for us today.”

The Green Book was created in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Green and distributed nationwide until 1967. Ultimately becoming known as the “bible of black travel”, it listed service stations, hotels, restaurants and other establishments where African-American travelers would be welcomed.

The Smithsonian’s exhibition will travel to 12 cities across the United States over a three-year period beginning in 2020. The exhibition will be curated by Candacy Taylor, one of the nation’s leading Green Book scholars, and it will explore the challenges faced by African-Americans across the country and a parallel world of mostly African-American businesses that provided support during their travels. Exhibition venues will be announced at a later date.

“ExxonMobil’s support makes it possible for us to share this important American story and engage with museum visitors across the country,” said Myriam Springuel, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Smithsonian Affiliations. “The exhibition will celebrate Victor Green and his publication that allowed African-Americans to travel with dignity across a segregated country, and also highlight the success of many black-owned businesses that made these journeys possible.”

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