All over the map: "Green Book" guides black motorists to friendly businesses in Evergreen

2021-12-13 16:26:04 By : Mr. Patrick Wang

A local heritage organization is exploring the hidden history and influence of the "Green Book", a travel guide for black motorists in the mid-20th century.

You may remember a movie from a few years ago (won the Oscar for Best Picture), named "Green Book". This film tells the story of a black musician who was driven south from New York City to Jim Crow in the 1960s.

The name of the film comes from the real Green Book and its publisher, a full-time postal worker who lives in Harlem, named Victor H. Green. It was first published in 1936 and published annually for about 30 years.

The Green Book—full name: "Green Book for Black Motorists"—was prepared for black drivers on road trips, and it eventually developed into a state guide for sale across the country. Its page lists restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, service stations, barber shops, beauty salons, and dormitories-called "tourist homes", they are just private residences that welcome guests-they may be black in other businesses Drive out blacks when customers provide services. Or worse.

In the opening chapter of the 1940 edition, the recommendation of a satisfied user may arouse the memories of people of any race. They remember that the smartphone’s previous holiday navigation included a tedious map prepared by the American Automobile Association and a customized comb-bound "Trip-tiks". "(AAA).

"We firmly believe that the'Black Motorist Green Book' means as much to us as AAA means to the white race," the satisfied user wrote in a letter to the publisher Victor Green.

The local group engaged in Green Paper research in Evergreen is the Washington Black Heritage Society (BHS). BHS President Stephanie Johnson-Toliver told KIRO Radio that black friendly places in Washington first appeared in the 1939 edition of the Green Book. Only one hotel was listed on Jackson Street, which was the main black neighborhood in Seattle from the 1920s to the 20th century. Street. The 1970s.

By the early 1940s, the Green Paper listed many businesses in Yakima, Everett, Tacoma, and Seattle-including Smith's Restaurant, which served "southern cooked food" in private residences, incredible However, the residence is still located on Madison Street and 22nd Avenue in Seattle.

BHS volunteers are exploring the hidden history of the publication in Washington, and the Smithsonian exhibition-the Green Book of Black Motorists-will be displayed at the Washington State Museum of History in Tacoma in March next year. Johnson-Toliver said that BHS is working with museums on some pending local projects, and BHS is investigating the history behind corporate and tourist residences in Seattle, Yakima, Everett, and Tacoma.

Viewing the Washington page in different editions of the Green Book reminds people of the various issues Johnson-Toliver and her colleagues will study in the coming months. Do the owners and operators of black-friendly businesses in the Green Paper know they are on the list? And, how much blatant Jim Crow-style racism occurred in Washington during those years? In other words, how necessary is the Evergreen Green Paper-a place like most parts of the West, Johnson-Toliver said, where racism and discrimination at the retail level are real, but in its application Tends to be more subtle?

Regardless of the answers to these and other important questions, you have to admire publisher Victor Green, who saw a niche market and then created a practical solution to the ugly reality—— This will not change quickly in the 1930s and the 1940s, or even the 1950s and 1960s.

If you can’t wait to learn more about the Green Paper, the conservation and advocacy organization Historic Seattle will launch a virtual project with Candacy Taylor on Tuesday, July 20 at 5:30 pm. Taylor is the author of the best-selling book "Overground Railroads: The Green Paper and the Roots of African American Travel" published last year. She also participated in the creation of the Smithsonian exhibition.

The dialogue will be moderated by Stephanie Johnson-Toliver and Jackie Peterson. It is free, but you need to register in advance to get the Zoom link.

You can hear Feliks speak on the Seattle Morning News every Wednesday and Friday morning, read more of him here, and subscribe to the resident historian podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.