Being drivers within the twenty first century, fashionable know-how has allowed us to have tons of data at our disposal. From journey occasions with ETAs which are correct all the way down to the minute to real-time site visitors data, many people take these conveniences without any consideration. It wasn’t all the time this manner, as these of us who used to print out Mapquest instructions recall. However contemplate that, simply over half a century in the past, paper maps and journey guides existed to maintain sure parts of the inhabitants secure whereas they have been out driving. The Negro Traveler’s Inexperienced E book, typically referred to as The Negro Motorist Inexperienced E book, was that information. For 30 years, it offered data to assist Black drivers navigate America’s roads safely.
Jalopnik has written about the Green Book in the past, and the 2018 movie Green Book knowledgeable a brand new era of the existence of those guides. California alone had greater than 80 companies listed within the Inexperienced E book over time — eating places, lodges, gasoline stations and extra, all recognized for being pleasant to Black vacationers. I needed to dig deeper, to search out out if any of those companies have been nonetheless round at present.
Revealed from 1936 to 1966, The Negro Vacationers Inexperienced E book was printed yearly and distributed to Black individuals throughout the nation. The information was the brainchild of Victor Hugo Inexperienced, a journey author and U.S. Postal Service mailman. The concept for the information got here to him within the Nineteen Thirties, when he started gathering data on New York Metropolis motels, gasoline stations, and different companies that have been secure for Black vacationers to go to.
The Inexperienced E book was largely unknown to white People, but it surely was enormous inside the Black neighborhood. A shocking sponsorship take care of Normal Oil resulted within the ebook being offered in Esso gasoline stations throughout the U.S.
Immediately, it may appear unusual that Black individuals would want their very own journey information simply to maneuver round inside america. However consider the time when the Inexperienced E book was revealed. This was Jim Crow America. Racial segregation legal guidelines dominated the nation, particularly in southern states. Merely stopping to purchase gasoline or ask for instructions may get a Black particular person killed.
As America started constructing fashionable interstate highways after World Struggle II, it was essential for Black vacationers to know the place they might safely go for meals, gasoline or lodging. The Inexperienced E book listed companies in over 300 cities within the U.S. and Canada the place Black clients have been welcome.
Whereas many of the companies listed have been situated in main cities, the Inexperienced E book additionally held data on how one can safely journey by means of smaller cities. In places the place companies have been hostile to Black vacationers, the ebook usually gave addresses for personal properties the place vacationers may keep the night time.
California usually had the biggest variety of listings that may welcome Black vacationers. The variety of places within the state would fluctuate a bit from 12 months to 12 months, however not by a lot — in a 1957 edition of the information, for example, the Golden State boasts 81 places that have been secure for Black street trippers. That very same difficulty had 97 companies listed in New Jersey and 91 in Michigan. Even Texas had over 90 places.
I questioned — have been any of these California companies nonetheless round at present? I hit the street to search out out.
Sadly, most of the Inexperienced E book places that have been native to me are lengthy gone. The addresses are nonetheless there, however most of the lodges, eating places and gasoline stations have change into solely completely different institutions from what was as soon as listed within the information. For example, a location that was as soon as referred to as the Lake Elisnore Resort in Lake Elsinore, California is only a residential road now. Different places have ceased to exist solely, proper all the way down to the tackle. A motel in Riverside referred to as El Camino Motel is gone, and I couldn’t discover a hint of its existence. The rationale? It’s now a road that crisscrosses fields on March Air Drive Base.
So I left the Inland Empire to attempt my luck in Los Angeles.
The Lincoln Resort is without doubt one of the many addresses listed in L.A. Whereas it as soon as housed Black vacationers, at present the Lincoln Resort is a mainstay on town’s Skid Row, a enterprise that has helped hundreds of individuals over time get again on their toes.
One of the vital well-known places in Los Angeles, each for Black vacationers within the Jim Crow period and historical past buffs at present, is Clifton’s Cafeteria. When it closed in 2018 it was the oldest cafeteria within the metropolis and the biggest public cafeteria on this planet. Sadly, gentrification bought the higher of it, and at present the placement is a elaborate hipster bar referred to as Clifton’s Republic.
Most of the addresses from the Inexperienced E book that also exist at present are unremarkable residential places. However in my travels round L.A., just a few stood out.
The Aster Motel nonetheless sits alongside the 110 freeway, simply over a mile from the College of Southern California’s L.A. campus. You’d hardly even realize it’s there, sitting behind just a few different buildings. Whereas the Aster was as soon as a haven for Black vacationers, it has a grim historical past. Only a 12 months after the motel opened, in 1947, the motel landed on the middle of a grotesque homicide case that bought nationwide consideration by means of sensational newspaper protection. This was the homicide of Elizabeth Brief, often known as the Black Dahlia homicide.
Brief’s bare physique was found in a vacant lot within the Leimert Park neighborhood on January fifteenth, 1947. She had allegedly been staying in Room 3 on the Aster Motel; the motel’s proprietor reported that, on the morning Brief’s physique was found, Room 3 was discovered coated in blood. On the time, the LAPD offered a unique principle, alleging that Brief was by no means a visitor on the Aster Motel; the 2017 ebook Black Dahlia, Red Rose resurfaced the alleged connection between Brief and the motel.
One other Inexperienced E book website has a wealthy and far lighter historical past. The Dunbar Resort was at the heart of Black culture in L.A. within the early twentieth century. Individuals described it as a “West Coast combination of the Waldorf-Astoria and the Cotton Membership.” The Dunbar hosted the largest Black stars — Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Billie Vacation — and gave a house to the west coast NAACP conference. Though it was deemed a historic and cultural monument within the early Seventies, by the Eighties the lodge had fallen into damage. In 2011, the Dunbar and its adjoining buildings have been bought and redeveloped right into a mixed-use, built-in neighborhood referred to as Dunbar Village, with 83 housing models break up between 41 reasonably priced models and 41 senior models.
Together with the three listed above, simply 10 Los Angeles-area Inexperienced E book websites are nonetheless standing at present, out of practically 30 that have been listed when the ebook was in publication. It’s unhappy to see so few left, and to think about the tales that could possibly be instructed by the locations that aren’t round anymore.
America has gotten higher because the Inexperienced E book ceased publication in 1966, within the sense that Black motorists don’t have to depend on a guidebook to search out companies that received’t flip them away. It’s unhappy to think about an period when the Inexperienced E book needed to exist, however I discover it inspirational to look again on the companies and households listed in these pages. It’s a bittersweet feeling to know that, within the depths of Jim Crow discrimination, Black vacationers may discover a secure haven in locations the place most companies wouldn’t settle for them, because of a ebook put collectively by individuals who needed Black People to securely expertise the enjoyment and freedom of the trendy street journey.