Back in the 1950s, when I was teaching at PS 613 in New York city, a fellow teacher, Dick Moss, who had been a World War II Tuskegee Airman, told me a story about how his father, an Urban League officer, traveled in the South. He told me that his father had a list of places he and his wife could stay when traveling. Then in the morning before they left where they had stayed, his father would write a check to their hosts’ favorite charity.

More recently when I was discussing a chapter in my manuscript for my Yiddish and jive book with my buddy Thomas Dresser, he told me about the Green Book. Research led me to the Negro Motorist Green-Book that was published from 1936 to 1967, and what purpose it served.

The South was a dangerous place at the time for a black person to live or travel. Indeed, the NAACP hung a flag from their New York city office listing lynchings. Where could a black person traveling by car in the South get gas, get a car fixed, eat, find a lavatory? At the time there were signs, for example, outside toilets and even water fountains — “Colored or White.” In the Jim Crow South there were many places the Ku Klux Klan ruled. There were Sundown Towns with signs that read “Negroes Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You.” Despite President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 civil rights bill that made it illegal for restaurants, gas stations, hotels and other facilities to discriminate, it took the civil rights movement and lawsuits to overcome some of the ongoing discrimination.

Hence, to help someone traveling by car, Victor H. Green, a New York city postal worker, with help from his wife and input from other postal workers, created the first Green-Book. Interestingly, the first book was for New York city and suburbs where someone could find a friendly establishment without being insulted or humiliated. The book became so popular that Green and his wife formed a company and the national Green-Book was published.

Among the establishments listed in the Green Book were eateries, hotels, gas stations, black-owned businesses, barber shops, beauty parlors, taverns, road houses, tourist-homes, night clubs, and other establishments to help a traveler. In 1940, the Green Book cost 25 cents. In 1949 the book cost 75 cents and had 80 pages and reported on Canada, Bermuda, the United States, and Mexico. Throughout the country, ESSO — the Standard Oil Company — sold the Green Book at their gas stations

In 2010, Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss wrote a children’s book, Ruth and the Green Book, about a girl named Ruth whose father uses the Green book on a car trip to see her grandmother. There was even a play produced about the Green Book. At the National Museum of African America History and Culture in Washington, D.C., there is an exhibit about The Negro Motorist Green-Book.

This research on the Green Book was consistent with my personal experiences. As a World War II GI serving in a segregated army, I had an enlightening negative experience with segregation. While doing my army basic training in Camp Crowder in Joplin, Mo., I went to Kansas City to meet a friend from my block in Brooklyn. Being a Dodger baseball fan, I went to see a baseball game. As I sat and watched the game, I kept thinking, something is not kosher here. Finally, around the seventh inning stretch, I realized I was sitting in the white section in a segregated ball park — something I had never experienced in Ebbits Field, the Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium.

At our last Veterans day at the VFW Post in Oak Bluffs, a former white Air Force officer told me about being assigned to a Southern base and going into town with a fellow officer. He and his friend, not in uniform, boarded a bus, walked to the back and sat down.

Unbeknownst to the two of them, the bus driver called the police. Upon arriving, the policeman ordered them to move to the front of the bus. Apparently, they had violated the town’s Jim Crow law.

During the days of school desegregation, I was speaking in some city down South and chatted with an elderly black gentleman. For some reason that I don’t recall, we shared what cars we were driving. He drove a Chevy, and I a red Mazda RX-7. He chuckled and told me he used to drive a Caddy. But since he could now stay at almost any motel, he didn’t have to drive with all his possessions anymore.

Although there is no longer a need for the Green-Book, the fight for equal civil rights for all continues.

Herb Foster is a trustee of the Edgartown Library and a former trustee of the Martha’s Vineyard chapter of the NAACP.