Candacy
Award Winning Cultural Documentarian
Bestselling Author & Photographer
Travels from: New York, NY

“An enriching look at African American history through the lens of the Black motorist, and as one of the few books on the subject, this is essential for most collections.” — Library Journal, Starred Review

Candacy Taylor is an award-winning cultural documentarian, photographer, and the author of the bestselling book, Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America (Abrams Books). Taylor is also the curator of The Negro Motorist Green Book exhibition which is being toured to 13 museums by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) from 2020 to 2025.

Taylor was a fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University under the direction of Henry Louis Gates Jr., and she is a National Geographic Explorer. Her projects have been funded by numerous organizations including, The Library of Congress, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Park Service, and The National Trust.

Overground Railroad was chosen as the New York Times’ most notable books of the year list and made the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Black Liberation Reading List, Oprah Magazine’s top 26 travel books, and National Geographic’s top 10 list of books by women. Taylor’s work has been featured in over 80 media outlets including AFAR, The Atlantic, CBS Sunday Morning, Condé Nast, The Economist, The Guardian UK, Ms. Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, PBS Newshour, Time Magazine, Viceland, and The Wall St. Journal.

Candacy's Featured Titles

Overground Railroad (The Young Adult Adaptation): The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America

Harry N. Abrams |
YA Black & African American History

Overground Railroad chronicles the history of the Green Book, which was published from 1936 to 1966 and was the “Black travel guide to America.” For years it was dangerous for African Americans to travel in the United States. Because of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or even get gas at most white-owned businesses.

The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, recreational destinations, and other businesses that were safe for Black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and the stories from those who took a stand against racial segregation are recorded and celebrated.

This young reader’s edition of Candacy Taylor’s New York Times Notable Book discusses a number of sites included in the Green Book as well as the effects of systemic racism til the present day. It includes her own photographs of Green Book sites, as well as archival photographs and interviews with people who owned and used these facilities. The book also includes an author’s note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America

Abrams Press |
Black & African American History

Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the “black travel guide to America.” At that time, it was both dangerous and difficult for African Americans to travel, because black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem.

Candacy Taylor writes in her introduction, “The Green Book was published during a time when car travel symbolized freedom in America, but since racial segregation was in full force throughout the country, the open road wasn’t open to all. When black motorists picked up a copy of the Green Book, they were greeted by the words ‘Just What You Have Been Looking For!! NOW WE CAN TRAVEL WITHOUT EMBARRASSMENT.’” Chapters include:

  • Driving While Black
  • The Business of the Green Book
  • Vacation
  • Music Venues
  • The Roots of Route 66
  • Women and the Green Book
  • And more!

It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations and systemic racism in America.

Moon Route 66 Road Trip (Moon Handbooks)

Moon Travel |
Road Travel Reference

From pristine prairies and red rock mountains to the glittering Pacific, this fabled highway has beckoned everyone from Dust Bowl escapees to 1950s vacationers. Route 66 is lined with the history of those seeking a better life, whose stamina, perseverance, and imagination made it an American icon. Their stories are threaded throughout this book, amid the colorful characters and cultural curiosities that embody the Mother Road today.

This book gives you everything you need to get your kicks on Route 66:
Follow turn by turn directions to connect with the historic highway and learn where to get off the route for worthwhile excursions. Experience roadside attractions, outsider art, and kitsch masterpieces. Wander transcendent landscapes like Acoma Pueblo, the Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree. Meet the trailblazing women who defined Route 66 for generations to come and discover the untold stories of the Green Book, which enabled African Americans to travel west safely.

Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress

ILR Press; Illustrated edition |
Culinary Biographies & Memoirs

“Career waitresses do more than just serve food. They are part psychiatrist, part grandmother, part friend, and they serve every walk of American life: from the retired and the widowed, to the wounded and the lonely, and from the working class to the wealthy. The classic diner waitress is an icon of American culture…. This book takes a moment to honor and recognize waitresses’ contribution to our communities. Doing this project has helped me to redefine my perspective on life, work, and happiness. It has made me reevaluate the myth of the American dream that says you need to have an ‘important’ job to be happy.”―from Counter Culture

In large cities and small towns across the country, the best diners and coffee shops are more than just restaurants: they are neighborhood institutions that bring together communities. From the Gold ‘N Silver Inn in Reno, Nevada to the U.S.A. Country Diner in Windsor, New Jersey, these special places are not defined by their menus or décor, but by the waitresses who have established bonds with their customers and their communities over years-and sometimes decades-of service. Counter Culture is a window into the lives of career waitresses who have worked in diners and coffee shops for up to sixty years. Since 2001, Candacy A. Taylor (a former waitress herself) has traveled more than 26,000 miles throughout the United States collecting stories of these “lifers,” as many waitresses aged fifty or over playfully call themselves. She interviewed fifty-seven waitresses in thirty-eight towns and cities. Their compelling stories are complemented and enhanced by Taylor’s striking color photographs of the waitresses at work.

Taylor expected that the waitresses she’d meet would feel overworked and underappreciated, but was surprised and delighted to find that the opposite was true. The proud, capable waitresses Taylor interviewed loved their jobs and, even if given the opportunity, “wouldn’t do anything else.” Nearly all the waitresses said that the physical labor of waitressing helped them to age more gracefully and that the daily contact with customers and coworkers kept them socially engaged. Lifers generally make more money from serving regular customers with whom they forge bonds over decades and their seniority earns them respect from their coworkers and managers. Taylor’s sensitive and respectful portrayal of career waitresses who have turned their jobs into a rewarding lifetime pursuit turns Counter Culture into an invaluable portrait of the continued importance of community in our changing society.

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OVERGROUND RAILROAD: THE GREEN BOOK AND THE ROOTS OF BLACK TRAVEL IN AMERICA

Taylor is America’s leading Green Book expert, and she is the author of Overground Railroad. The Green Book was a travel guide that was published for Black people during the Jim Crow era and was a compelling marketing tool that supported Black-owned businesses and celebrated Black self-sufficiency and offered life-saving travel accommodations.

This talk tells the untold story of Black travel, offering readers a rich opportunity to reexamine America’s story of segregation, Black migration, and the rise of the black leisure class. It features the story of the Green Book over its three decades of publication highlighting Black-owned businesses. This talk will also show archival images of Green Book sites and modern ones that document the indelible scars that redlining, urban renewal, gentrification, and mass incarceration have left on these communities.

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WOMEN & THE GREEN BOOK

During a time when women couldn’t receive credit or even open a bank account, thousands of Black women owned Green Book sites. There were over 900 beauty salons and nearly 1400 tourist homes run mostly by widowed women who rented out extra bedrooms and cooked warm meals for travelers. These were possibly the first Airbnb’s.

This talk celebrates the most inspiring female Green Book proprietors, including Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans and Alma Green, Victor Green’s wife, who edited and eventually published the Green Book, while managing its nearly all-female staff.

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HISTORIC AND ARCHITECTURAL PRESERVATION OF GREEN BOOK SITES

Taylor has cataloged and mapped nearly 11,000 Green Book listings, traveled to nearly 7,000 Green Book sites in 48 US States, and photographed over 200 of them. Her field research revealed that approximately 80% of the buildings were gone. This talk features the remaining Green Book sites that are vulnerable to extinction and those that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the National Trust. For instance, the Ben Moore Hotel in Montgomery Alabama has been sitting in ruins for four decades and it was the site where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his inner circle held secret meetings to strategize the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The talk will also focus on what has been done to restore honor to these sites, while also examining how racism has played a critical role in determining what buildings are valued, preserved, and saved. Finally, this talk will feature the success stories of Green Book sites that have been saved by undergoing extensive, multi-million-dollar rehabilitation initiatives.

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TRAVELING WHILE BLACK: AMERICA'S SUNDOWN TOWNS

This talk examines the historical and current challenges of traveling while Black in a county with over a thousand sundown towns. Sundown towns were all-white communities that banned Black people from entering after dark.

This talk will reveal common misconceptions about sundown towns. Most people assume they were primarily in the South, but the West and Midwest are the areas with the most. For instance, Indiana, Ohio, and California had the highest number of sundown towns while South Carolina and Louisiana and Mississippi, had the fewest; and in 1859 the entire state of Oregon was a sundown town.

Taylor has mapped 1032 sundown towns and has collected over 800 pages of census data, stories, and testimonies from people who have lived in these places. Taylor started mapping sundown towns to understand the role they play in maintaining racial division today and determining how they inform our current policies, especially regarding housing and educational segregation, and now mass incarceration. This talk will provide a customized analysis of the hosting organization’s state to encourage a robust QnA discussion with the audience.

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THE ROOTS OF ROUTE 66

Route 66 was one of the first cross-country road trips branded and marketed to white suburban families, and although the Mother Road is the poster child for nostalgia, Route 66 mirrored a shameful chapter in American history. Nearly half of all the counties that lined Route 66 were Sundown Towns, which were towns that were all white communities that banned blacks from entering city limits after sundown.

This talk examines the gulf between our nostalgic reimagining of the postwar “happy days” and the fabled highway’s idealized past that never was. It takes the audience through a state-by-state journey a Black family would have experienced traveling Route 66 during the Jim Crow era—highlighting the dangers and celebrating Green Book sites along the way, such as Murray’s, a Black Dude Ranch in the middle of the Mojave Desert in southern California.

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AMERICAN ROOTS: RACE & BEAUTY SHOP CULTURE IN AMERICA

Hair salons are one of the most racially segregated businesses in America. This is largely due to the differences in our hair texture and the skills that are required to style those different textures. Other factors include language and the priority to provide an intimate space where people are free to reveal things about themselves and their culture that are otherwise not freely shared.

Taylor traveled over 26,000 miles throughout the US conducting interviews in salons that serve African American, Appalachian, Cajun, Dominican, Gullah-Geechee, Jamaican, Japanese, Jewish (Orthodox), Pakistani, and LGBTQ+ communities.

Hair may appear to be a vain subject, but a deeper examination offers a rich, complex topic to discover American culture and ourselves. This talk untangles the story of Americans and their hair and pulls back the curtain on salon culture by featuring an institution that is rooted in rituals as diverse as America. It looks at the science and beauty standards that shape identity in a celebrity-obsessed culture. New dialogues are emerging, and this talk captures that conversation.

This talk is based on Taylor’s American Roots interview project which received an award from the American Folklife Center and is now archived at the Library of Congress.

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BY THE HORNS: FEMALE BULLFIGHTERS

After being tossed in the air by a 700-pound bull, trampled, tossed again, and then gored in the stomach, bullfighter Cristina Sánchez said, “I can’t wait to get back in the ring. To be in front of a bull is a feeling so great that it can’t be described. Outside the ring, I am a normal, shy girl. But in the ring, I am transformed. I’m not a girl anymore, I am a bullfighter.”

This talk captures the struggle and the triumphs of this fascinating subculture of women. Women have performed with bulls since 2000 B.C. and this talk explores that history while examining gender and power. It does not take a position on the politics of bullfighting. It focuses on bloodless bullfights along border towns in America and throughout California and shows the cultural and symbolic implications of women gaining access and anchoring an undeniable presence in this male-dominated industry.

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COUNTER CULTURE: THE AMERICAN COFFEE SHOP WAITRESS

Candacy Taylor is the author of Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress. The book features a resilient group of career waitresses aged 50 to 84 years old. These hardworking women have raced to our tables and have brought meaning and culture to the American roadside dining experience. Taylor interviewed and photographed diner waitresses in forty-three US cities who have worked in the same diner for up to 60 years. Many have retired and gone back to the job because they missed it so much.

MODELS OF HEALTHY AGING These waitresses have worked in the same diners for more than 50 years. Most people would find waitressing physically exhausting, but these women believe the job keeps them in shape, sharpens their minds, and fulfills their desire to make meaningful human connections.

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ROADRUNNER: THE BUSINESS OF BEING A SUCCESSFUL ARTIST

Candacy Taylor, an author, photographer, and cultural documentarian, has produced transmedia projects for nearly 25 years including books, touring exhibitions, and interactive maps. Her projects enrich, challenge, and inspire new ways to think about culture and identity.

Although Taylor’s work has been celebrated by dozens of media outlets, funded by numerous organizations, and archived at the Library of Congress, she would have never been able to make a comfortable living if she hadn’t employed the key strategies that she will discuss in this talk.

This talk is designed to speak to a wide audience of creatives, scholars, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and writers about how to build a prosperous and creative life. Taylor is a hustler. She has the heart of an artist, the mind of a businesswoman, and the tenacity of a terrier. She will share the things she wished she had known earlier in her career. This talk will highlight Taylor’s real-life experiences of adapting her book into a play and television series. She will discuss negotiating strategies she used to sign contracts with ABC, The Smithsonian, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, and National Geographic. She will talk about the agreements she couldn’t sign due to the coded, obtuse language used in contracts to take away an artist’s right to distribute, control, and protect their content. She will speak about the critical role marketing and branding play in reaching a wider audience and recount the tools and best practices used to make a comfortable living doing what you love.

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OVERGROUND RAILROAD ADULT & YA BOOK

A young adult version Taylor’s book, Overground Railroad was published in 2022 for ages 12 and up. This would be a great opportunity for libraries to host book clubs to celebrate literacy and encourage children and parents (and grandparents) to read together.  Once they’ve read the book, then Taylor would come and speak about the generational differences in experiencing and understanding this racial history. She would also facilitate a multi-generational discussion about how to generate change and build an equitable future.

Candacy appears at the 35 minute mark

ABRAMS BOOKS TEACHER’S GUIDE FOR YOUNG ADULT EDITION OF OVERGROUND RAILROAD

ABRAMS BOOKS READERS GUIDE FOR THE ADULT VERSION

SMITHSONIAN EXHIBITION – THE NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN BOOK

LEARN MORE – NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN BOOK

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Childen’s and Young Adult Literature: Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winner, 2023
Booklist Editor’s Choice: Books for Youth, 2022
Afar: 19 Books We Love by Black Authors
Bustle: Top 11 list of Black History Month
Library Journal, Starred Review
Iowa City Library: Top Nonfiction Books of 2022
MS. Magazine: Best Books of 2020
New York Times: Top 11 Books We Recommend
New York Times: Top Notable Books of 2020
Oprah Magazine: 26 Best Travel Books
School Library Journal, Starred Review
Tulsa World: Oklahoma Bestseller List
Smart Bitches: January’s New Releases
University of Minnesota’s Anti-Racism Reading List

Media clips

UNLV | Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Carter G. Woodson Book Awards

U of Minnesota | Anti-Racism reading lists

The Atlantic | THE ROOTS OF ROUTE 66

Condé Nast Traveler | Retracing the ‘Green Book’ and the Evolving Story of Black Travel

Conversations with Kenyatta | A Conversation with Candacy Taylor

CBS Sunday Morning | Traveling with “The Green Book” during the Jim Crow era

Design Observer | A Travel Guide Just For Black Americans

The Economist | When America’s open road wasn’t open to all

Forward Times | Cultural Documentarian Candacy Taylor’s “Negro Motorist Green Book” Exhibition Travels to Houston Museum

KCRW | Preserving Green Book sites

Nashville Scene | Candacy Taylor’s History of the Green Book Is a Blunt-Force Reality Check

Library of Congress | The Green Book: Documenting African American Entrepreneurs

Los Angeles Times | Review: You’ve heard of the ‘Green Book.’ Candacy Taylor has meticulously retraced its history

WBUR | What Sundown Towns Represent For Black Drivers Today

Newsweek | How the ‘Green Book’ Saved Black Lives on the Road

The Points Guy | A conversation with Candacy Taylor, curator of the Smithsonian’s new traveling ‘Green Book’ exhibition

Thrillist | Retracing the Legacy of America’s Premier Black Travel Guide

Time | The Remarkable Black Businesswomen Who Found Success in Segregated America

USA Today | How to visit Green Book sites where Black travelers once found refuge

WNYC | ‘The Overground Railroad,’ ‘The Firsts,’ Ibram X. Kendi, George Washington’s Legacy, Harriet Tubman Came to Slay

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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