Overground Railroad

Overground Railroad
Age Range
10+
Release Date
January 25, 2022
ISBN
978-1419749490
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A young reader's edition of Candacy Taylor’s acclaimed book about the history of the Green Book, the guide for Black travelers Overground Railroad chronicles the history of the Green Book, which was published from 1936 to 1966 and was the “Black travel guide to America.” For years, it was dangerous for African Americans to travel in the United States. Because of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or even get gas at most white-owned businesses.

The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, recreational destinations, and other businesses that were safe for Black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and the stories from those who took a stand against racial segregation are recorded and celebrated.

This young reader's edition of Candacy Taylor’s critically acclaimed adult book Overground Railroad includes her own photographs of Green Book sites, as well as archival photographs and interviews with people who owned and used these facilities. The book also includes an author's note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
A history of prejudice in the U.S.
Overall rating
 
4.5
Writing Style
 
N/A
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Learning Value
 
N/A
What worked:
This nonfiction book for young adults is full of facts and anecdotes chronicling the horrendous, frustrating, and terrifying history of Negroes in the United States. The common thread throughout the pages is The Green Book, a guide for Black people moving and traveling across the country. It shares businesses, towns, and locations that were friendly to Black Americans and warns them of places to avoid. Stories of enjoyable and frightening incidents from their lives are described and will evoke a wide range of emotions from readers. Although most of the businesses no longer exist, the stories in the book offer insight into the history of bigotry and prejudice that is still present today.
This book can be used as a reference source, even though it doesn’t read like one, as it’s divided into sections that are easy to navigate. There is an index at the back to locate topics quickly, and there’s a section that cites sources of information and quotations found on specific pages. There is an abundance of photographs, both color and black and white, mixed with pages from various publications. Photos of covers from The Green Book tie the chapters together, and excerpts from its pages display information available to Black readers. Chapters are organized by topics, not historical dates, and they include the origins of the book, driving while black, music, and traveling Route 66 across the country.
The long history of prejudice and Jim Crowe laws are explored using well-known and lesser-known events and people from the past. It describes how the Pullman Company was the largest private employer of Black Americans, as trains became a major form of transportation. Harlem was a center for entertainment and featured performers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Benny Goodman. Tragically, pages and pictures depict the massacre and burning of a wealthy Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sundown towns, places where Blacks weren’t allowed to enter after dark, could be found all over the country, and the NAACP led a travel ban to Missouri in 2017 warning Blacks of potential violence. There are other stories of bigotry where Blacks are attacked just for being too successful.
What didn’t work as well:
This book is a young-adult adaptation, but it still has some pretty intense subject matter for young readers. There is a section describing an era of frequent hangings, and it includes a graphic photograph of a black man who had been hanged and shot. Some of the material may be upsetting, but it’s a part of America that’s not often shared and needs to be remembered.
The Final Verdict:
A history of prejudice in the U.S. Accomplishments and pleasant experiences of Black Americans temper the focus on unfair and violent attacks they were forced to endure. The stories are often disturbing to read, but they should be. I recommend this book for mature readers, as it’s probably not appropriate for elementary students.
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