A History Road Trip: The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1940




Imagine taking a road trip, and there are only 10-15 places that you can stop for food, water, and shelter throughout the entire state. Sadly, that was the case for most African Americans during the Jim Crow era. 

"The idea of "The Green Book" is to give the Motorist and Tourist a Guide not only of the Hotels and Tourist Homes in all the large cities, but other classifications that will be found useful wherever he may be. Also facts and information that the Negro Motorist can use and depend on ."

This quote can be found at the beginning of The Negro Motorist Green Book, created by Victor Hugo Green in 1936. Hugo was an American postal employee and writer from Harlem. Early publications of his guide only list hotels and restaurants that were safe in New York. But the book grew to list hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug stores, taverns, barbershops, and restaurants for African American travelers throughout the United States. The Smithsonian has a great online documentary on the history and impact of the book. 

Years later, this book still has an impact. It motivated me to go on a road trip, but with a twist, of course. I came across a reproduction of the 1940 edition on Amazon for $9.00. You can also view the 1940 edition for free on the Internet Archive website. I started in Columbia, South Carolina since that's where I'm currently located. I made three stops. Sadly, a lot of the buildings listed are demolished. But, I did come across three that were not far from me. 

Let's ride,

Holman's Barber Shop, 2103 Gervais Street.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, Lewis Holman earned  ownership of the land by 1929. The Holman Barbershop has two doors. One door leads to the barbershop, and the other door housed a few different buildings such as the Modernistic Beauty salon and the Goodwins Snack bar- from 1951 to 1961. The barber shop operated from 1945-2018. Wow!

This information is on page 7 of the NRHP description. I recommend checking this document out. There is a lot of information on the owner and the role of the Barber Shop in the Black community. 

 Cozy Inn Restaurant, 1509 Harden Street. 

This strip includes a few buildings that served the black community. The Cozy Inn Restaurant (far left), the Royal Motel (center), and the Carver theater (far right, on the end). This was a strip of safe havens for the black community. These buildings are a physical representation of agency within the black community. Below are images of the inside of Carver theater and a line forming in front of the Royal Motel with the Carver theater right next door. 

The Carver Theater was built in 1941, and was one of only two exclusively African American movie theaters in Columbia. The Capitol Theatre, has been demolished. The Carver Theatre is the only building still standing that gives us glimpse to the few places where African Americans could freely go. 

Click here for more images. The 1956 edition of the book features the Cozy Inn Restaurant on page 58.

 

Magnolia Restaurant, 2108 Gervais Street.

I honestly could not find a great deal of information on this building. I did find it listed on the Internet Archive in the 1949 edition of the green book. It operated from 1947-1950. Since this was a weekend adventure, I did not have the time to pull out the history detective gear to discover more. I'll leave this mystery to you. Let me know what you find. 

The History Road Trip Series

The History Road Trip will be a series that I will continue on the blog. Whenever I visit a new city, I will see if there are any places from the green book that I can explore. You can come along with me on YouTube



2 comments


  • Tellie

    Ms. Anetra,
    Thank you for reading. I’m glad that I’m able to educate and shed light on these topics in an aspiring way.


  • Anetra Adams

    I truly appreciate how you share Black history. I will be honest, a lot of things you have shared, I had no idea existed. It’s really nice seeing pictures and reading about it.Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


Leave a comment