Between 1936 and 1964, the Negro Motorist Green Book was essential for the survival of thousands of Black Americans.
The annual guidebook, commonly referred to as the Green Book, was published by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966.
In an era of segregation, cemented into the American legal system through Jim Crow laws, sundown towns, where African Americans were under threat of violence after sunset, were unpredictable and wild. There was a need for African Americans to find and secure a place to rest or eat in these threatening places where a sharp increase in lynchings and other forms of hate crimes took place after sundown.
Stretching across the United States, sites listed in the Green Book were more than places of refuge during the segregation era. They were places where African Americans had freedom of enjoyment.
The places listed in Green Books range from hotels and restaurants to night clubs, grocery stores, gas stations, and even “tourist homes,” where homeowners welcomed weary travelers to spend the night when they had nowhere else to go.
Places like Smalls’ Paradise in New York, Murray’s Dude Ranch in California, and Rosedale Beach in Delaware—though culturally and historically significant—have been lost to time. To save the places that are left and remember those that are gone, we look to successful preservation examples like A.G. Gaston Hotel, a Green Book site and National Treasure of the National Trust.
When we recognize the importance of these places, we remember the legacy of black entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as the racial discrimination that African Americans have experienced for centuries.