Claiming Space: Jim Crow and the American Road Trip

The road trip has become an iconic American tradition. Families load up their cars and drive across the country, stopping at any historical sites or points of interest that catch their attention. This freedom that the road offers is what draws so many people to the road trip and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. However, the American road trip has not always been free for all Americans. Jim Crow laws made it extremely difficult and dangerous for African Americans to travel, affecting their entertainment and places they could go. Stopping at the wrong gas station or town could result in harassment, assault, or even death. The Green Book 1962 Edition included is a travel companion published to help African Americans navigate segregated America. 

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Assess the economic and social impact of Jim Crow laws on African Americans.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Write informative/explanatory texts to analyze, synthesize, and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the...
Analyze the attacks on civil liberties and racial and ethnic tensions, including the Palmer Raids, the immigration quota acts of the 1920's, the resurgence of the...
Examine the roles of civil rights advocates, including the following:
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • The student will recognize the attacks on civil liberties under Jim Crow.
  • The student will analyze primary sources to discover how Jim Crow affected African Americans in regards to travel and public accommodations.
  • The student will communicate observations to classmates in a scholarly way.
  • The student will construct an effective answer to the investigate question “How did Jim Crow affect African Americans in regards to travel and public accommodations?”
  • The student will construct a map plotting points from the Green Book 1962 Edition.
Essential and guiding questions: 

How did Jim Crow affect African Americans in regards to travel and accommodations?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

This lesson provides a great opportunity for creative extension ideas. For example, teachers could

  • Have students create a new cover for the Negro Motorist Green Book.
  • Create a digital exhibition using sources from the Library of Congress and the Trials and Triumphs Web sites documenting how Jim Crow affected African Americans’ travel and entertainment.
  • Have your students write a blog post about the Jim Crow era in their state, or in their town/city, if information is available.
  • Give the students this newspaper and this map. The newspaper in question has a racist bias and the map features the distribution of the colored population of America in 1890. Have the students analyze the document to see how communities made arguments to justify Jim Crow and segregation. Let them fact-check the newspaper article against the map. 

Helpful Hints


  • Printed primary sources
  • Primary Source Analysis Tool
  • Adhesive for gallery walk (optional)
  • Dr. Cynthia Fleming Interview (30:44-36:40): Please note that this is a suggested clip from a longer interview and that the teacher may want to view the full interview and choose another clip if so desired.