Books and Authors, Kids! Presents
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin A. Ramsey
Atlanta-based playwright, photographer and folk art painter Calvin Alexander Ramsey grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and Roxboro, North Carolina. He is a former Advisory Board Member of the Robert Woodruff Library Special Collections at Emory University in Atlanta. He is also a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award. His plays have been performed in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; San Francisco; Valdez, Alaska; Omaha, Nebraska; Baltimore; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In early September, the Studio Museum welcomed Ramsey as its guest for the monthly program, Books & Authors, Kids!, where he read from his children’s book Ruth and the Green Book (Carolrhoda Books, A Division of Lerner Publishing Group, 2010). Books & Authors, Kids! allows children to have a creative experience with some of their favorite writers and artists, including hands-on workshops, storytelling and a book-signing.
Told in the voice of Ruth, the story's child protagonist, Calvin Ramsey's story provides a poignant look at the impact of the Jim Crow laws on African-American travelers. In the story Ruth’s family is treated poorly and/or unable to use certain facilities due to segregation and racism. Finally, a friendly gas station attendant shows Ruth's family the "Green Book". It lists all of the places that welcome black travelers. With this guidebook, Ruth’s parents are able to navigate their journey with confidence so that Ruth can make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma's house in Alabama.
Mr. Ramsey stated in an interview with Lerner Publishing that he learned about the "Green Book" about eight years ago during a funeral in Atlanta, when an eighty-year-old member of the family mentioned the need for the "Green Book" to travel through the American South. Although Ruth's story is fiction, the "Green Book" and its role in helping a generation of African-American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow laws are historical fact.
We concluded Mr. Ramsey’s reading and discussion with creating our own "Green Book" including places that the participating children like to go. We also discussed the limitations that past generations experienced and how things are very different today. Inside each book were prompts to assist the children in making memories of what they did, observed and learned, including questions about their favorite places and drawing projects to document how they looked while doing these activities.