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Knowing the story of the Green Book should give us new
eyes. As we move through our towns, neighborhoods,
and urban communities, the Green Book allows us to
remember what once was.

Car over green line
Desegregation was
Door and window look into a dark room
[Inside Charlie's Place, Myrtle Beach, SC], 2017. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

In less than a decade after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, at least half of the Green Book’s Black-owned businesses were closed. Through government programs like “urban renewal,” in which Black communities were disproportionately disrupted and destroyed, the entrepreneurial hopes of many Black citizens were dashed.

As public space became less divided, Black businesses had to compete with larger, wellfunded white-owned businesses that had the favor of police, policy makers, and politicians. This reality left Black-owned business with few resources and little leverage.

– GEORGIA AYERS, community activist, 2015
Chairs in a field Ambassador Hotel Auction Modern

Ambassador Hotel The Ambassador Hotel was one of Los Angeles’ premier destinations, and a popular Green Book destination. The Ambassador was listed in the guide in the 1963–64 and 1966–67 editions.

In June 1968, during his primary run for President, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the hotel.

His death also marked the beginning of the end for The Ambassador itself. The neighborhood deteriorated throughout the 1960s, and by 1986 the majority of the hotel’s rooms were closed. In 2005 the building was demolished Ambassador Hotel Then: Lawn at the Ambassador Hotel, [Security Pacific National Bank Collection]/Los Angeles Public Library. Ambassador Hotel Now: Ambassador Hotel, public auction, 2005. [Gary Leonard], [Los Angeles Photographers Photo Collection]/Los Angeles Public Library.

Dew Drop Cafe exterior Dew Drop Cafe exterior modern day

The Dew Drop The Dew Drop opened in 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was originally called the “Groove Room,” seeing performances from Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, and Otis Redding.

The police regularly raided the Dew Drop because it served both Black and white people, which was illegal in New Orleans until 1964. Ironically, it was legal integration that led to the Dew Drop’s demise.

When Bourbon Street opened to Black patrons, they spent more time exploring the French Quarter. By the late 1960s the club declined, and closed its doors in 1970. Dew Drop Inn Then: [Dew Drop Inn], 1953. Ralston Crawford. Ralston Crawford Collection of New Orleans Jazz Photography, Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University Special Collections, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Dew Drop Inn Now: [Dew Drop Exterior]. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

Lenox Lounge exterior Lenox Lounge exterior modern day

Lenox Lounge Live music was performed nightly in Harlem’s Lenox Lounge, a legendary Green Book site

At the Lenox, patrons heard swing, bebop, and the modern, profound, and transcendental artistry of John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Billie Holiday were regulars.

In 2014, it became a derelict building. Lenox Lounge, 2009. Courtesy of Ryan Davis. [Lenox Lounge]. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

Click on the images to learn more

Unlikely Legacy

In the years after his death, Dr. King’s name began to adorn street signs at the center of Black neighborhoods, once populated with Green Book businesses. Today, research suggests that communities on avenues named after Dr. King correlate with higher rates of crime, poverty, and poor health compared to their surrounding area.

Dr. King’s name has now become both a symbol of hope celebrated across the world, and the marker of decline and decay. His is now like the other names that once signaled the potential of the Black community: The Savoy, The Dunbar, Idlewild, Alberta’s, Murray’s. Lost, yet somberly remembered. Gone, but now serving as a lesson for us all.

[Regal Hotel]. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

Hotel Regal sign
Lobby from the second floor
[Hampton House, Miami, Florida], 2016. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

While the large majority of Green Book sites have been destroyed or left to decay, a handful of businesses have survived. Community efforts, government intervention, and individual support have been invested to give a few of these historic sites a sense of their former glory.

The progress of Black entrepreneurship has indeed continued.

The 2010 census calculated there are nearly two million Black-owned businesses in America. Yet, we could be forgiven to think that this rise is a contemporary truth. With the destruction of so many of those historical sanctuaries.

Hampton House entrance
The Hampton House The Hampton House was a high-class hotel listed in the Green Book in Miami, Florida. When world- renowned musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, and Sammy Davis Jr. performed on Miami Beach, they traveled inland to the Brownsville neighborhood to stay at the Hampton House.

The building was set on five acres and hosted both amateur and pro Black golfers, who made use of its access to nearby golf courses.

The Hampton House was on the verge of being demolished when Miami-Dade County invested millions of dollars in its restoration.

Hampton House - [Hampton House, Miami, Florida], 2016. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.
Gates BBQ Logo
Gate’s Bar B-Q There are currently six locations in Kansas and missouri.

Ol’Kentuck Bar-B-Q was one of the few Black-owned chain restaurants in the Green Book. The family business is still operating today as Gates Bar-B-Q in Kansas City, MO.

[Gates Bar-B-Q Logo, Kansas City, Missouri]. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.
A gate with a sign that says no trespassing
AG Gaston Hotel A.G. Gaston sold his motel in 1986. Ten years later, Gaston passed away at 103. His net worth was estimated at over 40 million dollars, making him one of the most successful Black entrepreneurs of his time.

Led by Birmingham, Alabama’s Mayor, Randall L. Woodfin, efforts to revitalize this Green Book site are underway. The renovation plans aim to bring the motel back to its former glory as a thriving travel accommodation.

In 2017, president Barack Obama designated the motel as a National Historic Monument.

[A.G. Gaston Motel]. Photograph by Candacy Taylor.

Video Credits

The Green Book:

Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel

Miami Dade College's Wolfson Archives.

Stock Media provided by Pond5

Torch of Friendship. Florida Division of Tourism. State Archives of Florida.