The Academy Award-winning Green Book has certainly been making its fair share of green. The film’s earnings have surpassed $100 million internationally. Why such high earnings? Let’s just say if you’d seen the movie already, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. In addition to an incredible performance from Viggo Mortensen (surely you’ve seen any Lord of the Rings movie) and Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali, the film juxtaposes humor and the weight of America’s bigoted history to tell a deeply nuanced story. Though the film juggles many complex elements—historical context, race relations, interracial power dynamics, and queer sexuality—little ever slips.
While some have raised the question of whether or not the film propagates the white-savior complex, one thing is certain: it also raises awareness of a lesser-known facet of American history.
Long-standing school curriculums have largely neglected the real ‘green book:’ an African-American motorist’s manual published by Victor Hugo Green for thirty consecutive years, beginning in 1936. The guide enabled travellers to avoid inconvenient or unsafe situations in which they may be refused service; threatened; attacked; or expelled from “sundown towns,” whites-only segregated municipalities. 10,000 such towns existed as late as the 1960s, and, despite stereotypes, these towns weren’t geographically limited to the South. Bronxville, NY and Levittown, NY are just two examples of the many segregated towns above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Safety concerns for African-Americans may be a part of history, but they aren’t a thing of the past. In 2017, the NAACP issued a travel warning for the entire state of Missouri after a series of racially-motivated attacks and alarming new statistics, which revealed African-American motorists were 75% more likely to be stopped and searched throughout the state.
In bringing awareness to this uglier part of America’s history, the film also brought renewed attention to a 2010 children’s book on the same subject: Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey and Gwen Strauss.
In November 2018, the month of Green Book‘s theatrical release, Ruth and the Green Book saw a 233% spike in profits compared to the November of the previous year. With the recent awards-season attention to the film, these soaring profits have continued, with a sustained profit increase of over double the amount of the previous year. Publicist Lindsay Matvick explains the phenomenon: “So many people didn’t know about it before the movie came out. That’s why we’re seeing such a spike in sales. People want to talk about it with their children, and this book hits the sweet spot.”
Ramsey, co-author of Ruth and the Green Book, says he wrote the book when it became clear that few people knew about the ‘green book.’ He himself hadn’t known until a funeral for a family friend, during which one mourner said they hadn’t driven such a long distance since a bygone era when the guide was widely used. Though he’s proud to have followed his dream and written this book on the subject, he looks forward to the day when his children’s book won’t be the only one to handle the important topic.
Featured Image Via CBS News.