The 2018 movie Green Book won an Academy Award for Best Picture. The real deal, however, is Taylor’s book, which involved scouting over 10,000 Green Book sites where black motorist found safe places to refuel their cars, eat and sleep while on the road. Today, under 5% are still in operation and 75% have ceased to exist since The Green Book was published (1936-1967). Some establishments were the victims of decay over time. But often there are other explanations: “urban renewal” that meant new highways plowing through black communities, laying waste to black-owned businesses; redlining bank practices; or to a lack of anti-monopoly enforcement, whereby white-owned businesses seized unfair advantages. Add in a staggering 700% rise in America’s prison population since Bill Clinton’s crime bill and the reasons why African-American commercial centers are no longer as resilient as they once were are clear.
Candacy Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian. She’s been a fellow at Harvard University under the direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and her projects have been funded by organizations ranging from National Geographic to The National Endowment for the Humanities. Her work has received extensive media coverage in places like the PBS Newshour and The New Yorker.
Events & Tips
Candacy Taylor was instrumental in helping the Smithsonian create the special traveling exhibit “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” First stop is the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. For the other, future stops of the exhibit, check out the Smithsonian’s web site.
A friend of mine, David Perry, has released a book Diary of a Successful Job Hunter on the App Sumo to help get the country back to work. It costs merely $1.
This week’s podcast is about a bluegrass band that bucked the odds. While the average band is lucky to last 10 years together, with 2-3 years the average, the McClain family band sustained itself for 18 years and toured 62 countries. What was the key to their group chemistry? Mutual respect, and the right ratio of positive to negative interactions. Drawing on a half-century of analyzing the characteristics of loving, stable marriages, John Gottmann and his colleagues at the Love Lab have concluded that a 5:1 ratio of positive/negative interactions is the key to a good marriage. And an in-depth study of work teams at EDS (Ross Perot’s old company) took that ratio even higher. That study found that high-performance teams had a 5.6 positive/negative ratio versus a 0.4 ratio for low-performance teams.
Paul O. Jenkins is the university librarian at Franklin Pierce University and also the author of Richard Dyer-Bennet: The Last Minstrel and Teaching the Beatles.
This episode covers a band that defies expectations. Formed in 1968, this band ran counter to the era twice over. First, they were intergenerational with their dad a key figure despite the slogan “don’t trust anybody over 30” being common then. Second, while the then two-year-old National Organization for Women (NOW) could only boast of 1,035 members across America, the McClain family band had two women playing prominent roles. The episode explores how bluegrass music varies from country music, and how musically inventive the group was. Finally, comparisons to the Beatles close out the episode.
In America, since 1900, over 100,000 coal miners have died in industrial accidents. Lately, though, Appalachia has been seeing far worse. The opioid crisis hit the region hard. Black lung, a disease that Congress tried to curb in 1969 by passing legislation meant to force coal barons to do a better job protecting the miners’ health, has increased. Pitting the miners’ pride and fear against the greed of wealthy coal barons, this is a story about a hard-pressed region struggling to stay afloat.
Chris Hamby is an investigate reporter at the New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2014 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting in 2017. A native of Nashville, he lives and works in Washington, D.C.
This episode explores the experiences of a workforce, primarily male, that has long been exploited by those in power in West Virginia’s near-feudal economy. King Coal rules, and miners’ health and lives have been shortchanged in the process. Hamby documents how a few good-hearted people have fought for justice against mine owners, lawyers, and doctors only too eager to dismiss the miners’ legitimate health claims. It’s a parable that fits our era of looming economic inequality.