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Range Anxiety and the Green Book

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When it comes to electric vehicles, range anxiety is a thing. “Will we make it to our destination?” being the central question driving the anxiety. In late January we leased an electric car from Hyundai. Our Ioniq 5 has a range of 266 miles, which is quite sufficient for traveling anywhere in the Metro region. Our goal, however, was  St. Augustine, Florida to visit family. Would we make it the entire way, finding charging stations when needed or would we find ourselves stranded along the road in Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky or one of the other states through which we had to travel?

During our trip, I read an article in the Star Tribune entitled “The Green Book guided Black travelers safely through segregated Minnesota, too”. The article explained that the Green Book was like a travelers Bible for Blacks, identifying hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other needed establishments where they would be welcomed. There were 80 such places in Minnesota that were listed in the Green Book. Included on that list were the Lexington Restaurant on Grand Ave. and the downtown St. Paul Hotel. The Green Book was a resource for African Americans wishing to travel so they might visit family, relocate or go on vacation. A Black family wishing to travel from  St. Augustine, Florida, home to both Civil Rights leaders and the Klu Klux Clan, to one of the few resorts in Minnesota that welcomed Blacks, would rely on the Green Book. They may have very well stayed at the  St. Paul Hotel and grabbed a meal at the Lexington Restaurant. The Green Book addressed the understandable range anxiety felt by African Americans who wished to travel. 

For my part, I spent several days prior to our trip reviewing planning apps that identified charging stations on our route. I downloaded four apps and settled on two as the ones I would primarily use. I chose one app that enabled us to find Electrify America charging stations because our lease came with two years of free charging at Electrify America. I chose a second app that identified alternative charging stations in case there were any issues or problems with Electrify America. I carefully reviewed each route taking note of the distance between each charging station to ensure we stayed safely within the driving range. Probably because I am a Baby Boomer, I felt it necessary to print all this so I also had a hard copy. Those route planning apps were our Green Book. 

I, of course, do not wish to minimize the travel risks faced by African Americans with the uncertainty of finding a charging station for an electric vehicle, but the required planning and the anxiety of traveling outside of your home area are points of connection. It certainly gave me a glimpse into how it might have felt starting out on an extended trip for the first time. The Star Tribune quotes Rondo elder and historian, Frank White, who notes “You had to have a strategic plan. You could run into things that were devastating in addition to not being served.”

We made it safely to  St. Augustine, Florida and back home to Minnesota without issue. It was a great trip. One which I would do again without hesitation, especially with apps that give me confidence I will make it to my destination. Hopefully the same was true for many African Americans who found their way to Minnesota utilizing the Green Book. It is a credit to the Lexington Restaurant and the  St. Paul Hotel that they were included in the Green Book, last published in 1967.

The question of range anxiety, arriving at one’s destination safely, is in some respects always with us. It is true for our LGBT neighbors who sadly are increasingly targets of hate. For most of us, we can only imagine what it must be like for new immigrants to this country, regardless of their status. I would like to think our community is known as a place of safety and welcome and that perhaps 50 years from now might be celebrated for having been listed on an app, not unlike the Green Book. 

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