Route 66

AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan

They were just a bunch of old business records belonging to New Mexico’s oldest and largest sign-making shop, the last of the manufacturers from neon’s midcentury heyday.

In 1946, Nat King Cole helped put Route 66 on the map with his classic, "Get Your Kicks on Route 66." Ironically, Cole couldn’t visit most of the establishments in the cities he sang about because he was black. At the time, Jim Crow laws banned people of color from sleeping, eating, buying gas – even getting haircuts at many businesses across the country, including along the Mother Road. But there were some safe havens, like La Posada Hotel in Winslow, the White Rock Motel in Kingman, and DuBeau’s Motel Inn in Flagstaff.  These locations were listed in the Green Book, a travel guide for people of color, first published in the 1930s. Documentarian Candacy Taylor came across it, while writing a Route 66 travel guide. She believes the Green Book saved countless black lives. It’s now the focus of her new initiative, The Green Book Project.


It was called the "Mother Road," a vital highway bridging Chicago and Los Angeles through the Southwest that represented unlimited possibilities in 20th Century United States.