On Saturday, February 8, Northern Neck locals got to learn and share their knowledge of Virginia, and more specifically, the Northern Neck’s Black history. Susan Hellman, an independent researcher on the Green Book, shared her knowledge of Virginia’s Green Book locations, and also learned from some knowledgeable locals about some of the Northern Neck’s Green Book sites at the Essex Public Library.
In 1937, Victor Green created a travel guide for African Americans, titled The Negro Motorist Green Book, with stops that included gas stations, hotels and motels, restaurants, and more that were friendly to African American travelers. During that time, it was a strong safety concern of African American travelers about where they would be able to stop during their travels, because segregation and racism hindered their traveling flexibility. Green, a Harlem postal worker and activist thought of his travel guide in 1932, and it quickly gained popularity within the African American community, who soon dubbed the travel guide as “The Green Book” when it became published a few years later. Most of Green’s “Green Books” contained a Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice” on the cover.
Hellman, so far, has discovered 14 “Green Book” sites in the Middle Peninsula area. Locations include Tappahannock’s Harris’ Grill and Mark Haven Beach Hotel; West Point’s Morton’s Restaurant, Jordan’s Enterprises, White’s Barber Shop, and White’s Restaurant; and Jamaica’s Oliver’s Restaurant, Service Station, and Motel.
Fortunately, the use of the Green Book dwindled down as diversity increased and segregation became outlawed, causing the 1966-1967 “Green Book” to be the last of Green’s travel guides to be published. Green stated that he would look forward to the day that his travel guides would no longer be necessary for African American travelers. Unfortunately, less than 25 percent of the “Green Book’s” locations are still standing. While traveling for African Americans is far safer in current times, Hellman stated that, still, “Some African Americans use Facebook as the new ‘Green Book.’”
To discover extant or demolished “Green Book” sites in Virginia, visit Hellman’s website, www.VirginiaGreenBook.com. On Hellman’s site, viewers can explore a map with locations, structural status, history, years the location was listed in the “Green Book,” and more.