Logan, Ohio State's former Hazel Z. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics (he has since moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara), took to Twitter, lamenting that films “steeped in black pathology and white savior complexes are a Hollywood perennial.”
Logan researches the real Green books, created by postal carrier Victor Hugo Green in the 1930s. He calls them "a historical Yelp of sorts" for African Americans, and he's mapped more than 30,000 Green book locations, layering them over maps of areas designated as dangerous by the government. (Watch his TEDxColumbus talk for more on that.)
Logan spoke to Insights about Green books, the movie and his research.
The movie isn’t really about Green books at all — there’s a passing reference, that’s all. This is a white savior movie. You wouldn’t come out of (the theater) understanding anything about the Green books.
Green books existed from the 1930s until the mid-1960s to solve a problem. You’d be traveling and stop for gas and you’d also like to use the restroom. Depending on the gas station you stopped at, they wouldn’t let you use the restroom. Green books let you know where you could get gas and be served in a restaurant. As interstates expanded, people traveled and didn’t know where to go.
I compare it to McDonald’s. People may not like McDonald’s, but when you travel, you stop at McDonald’s because you know what it’s like. That’s what the Green book solves; it informs people.
We collected all of the Green books and we’re mapping all the locations, looking at Green Book businesses — public accommodations where you will not face racial discrimination. Then we overlay these with how many businesses overall are listed in the books. We can see how, over time, there are more and different businesses listed. Maybe you don’t list the first year, but you would the second. It’s economics.
No, they were all over the United States, as far north as Seattle. It says a couple things: Green books are in places you wouldn’t expect and (there are) benefits to businesses being listed. By being listed, you’re telling African American customers in that city they wouldn’t be discriminated on the basis of race.
They were distributed by Standard Oil and cost 25 cents in 1940.
“Black Panther.” I’m a huge Marvel fan.