For me, I didn’t learn about the iconic ‘Green Book’ in my K-12 school years. In fact, it was later in my young adult years where I was able to read and learn more about the important role the book had in not just American history, but Black History. An invaluable resource that aided Black folks traveling across the country, it has served not just as a Godsend but a community-building tool. In recent years, there have been more creatives working to bring attention to the efforts of the creator, Victor Hugo Green, and the lives he helped protect through his work.
2018’s cinematic offering, Green Book, boasted A-List talent and contained strong performances but later revealed a film that received critical backlash from a white savior narrative, from many critics, as well as the controversy that came from the creative team completely leaving musician Don Shirley’s family out of the filmmaking process.
In just the very first episode of HBO’s newest series, Lovecraft Country, (which we’re all devouring) we can see how the ‘Green Book’ can be fleshed out, even for a fictional purpose (In the show the Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green is fashioned in the show as “The Safe Negro Travel Guide” created and updated by Uncle George, Courtney B. Vance’s character). There is love and consideration written in, which acknowledges the curation, usage, and necessity of the ‘Green Book’ as a tool that Black Americans used to navigate an unsafe America years ago.
And that force of love continues: for the first picture book about the creation and distribution of the ‘Green Book’ and the man who created it, Victor Hugo Green, is forthcoming from Beaming Books. Beaming Books publishes high-quality children’s books that help kids thrive in every part of who they are – emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
With Keila V. Dawson as the author and Alleanna Harris as the illustrator, these women take on the momentous task of bringing to life Victor Hugo Green and, ultimately, his legacy in American History. Set at 40 pages, this creative team has produced an age appropriate children’s book for the Preschool (3-5 years) and Early Grade (5-8 years) levels detailing this history.
Keila V. Dawson‘s website tells us that before becoming a children’s book author, she was a community organizer, special education teacher, school administrator, educational consultant and advocate. Dawson has lived and worked in the U.S., the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt.
A native of New Orleans, her debut picture book THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican Publishing Co. 2015), celebrates one of the unique cultural traditions in her hometown – eating King Cake during the Mardi Gras season. She is a co-editor, along with Lindsay H. Metcalf and Jeanette Bradley, of NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley, (Charlesbridge, September 22, 2020)
Alleanna Harris is a US illustrator who has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, doodle on her notebooks at school and on the programs at church.
Her agency’s webpage tells us that she graduated from the University of Arts with a BFA in Animation with Honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration. Harris finds inspiration in the beauty of everyday things. Everything inspires her. In her work, she seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color and have a sense of warmth. She lives in NJ. A few of her books as an illustrator include: The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (2019), The Extraordinary Life of Mary Seacole (2019) and Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight (2020).
In an interview with children’s book author Tara Lazar, Dawson speaks on the artwork and the purpose it serves.
“The cover…and interior spread [by Alleanna Harris] show exactly what I wanted readers to take away from this book: yes, legal segregation made travel and life difficult for Black citizens. Yes, there was unfairness, and protests, but there was also room for joy. And Victor Green found a solution that worked at that time. It felt like he led and won a battle in the war against racism.”
“And Black families, their communities and allies helped create the change they wanted, together. Although the story and art in OPENING THE ROAD: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book take you back in time, kids will connect things that happened then to today’s events and see what has and hasn’t changed over the last 80 years.”