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Many doors were closed to African Americans — though their exclusion was communicated in subtler ways.

Car over green line

Many Black travelers had heard
fantastic tales of the north: a land of
respect and humanity not accessible
in the southern states.

Yet, those who left the South quickly learned
the practice of segregation was in full force
throughout the country.

People in dress clothes outside of a building
Pilgrim Baptist Church, Bronzeville, Chicago Chicago, Illinois, 1941.
Kids in suits leaning on a car
Southside, Chicago Southside, Chicago, Illinois, 1941.
Sign on window that reads We cater to white trade only
Lancaster, Ohio [Sign on restaurant, Lancaster, Ohio], 1938. Ben Shahn. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USF33- 006392-M4.
Charlie’s Sandwich Shop

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe was a restaurant in Boston, listed in the Green Book for fifteen years. Above Charlie’s was the meeting site for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black trade union in the United States. Porters commanded respect in the Black community; they were engines of the Black middle class, and their travels exposed them to news and information across the country —making them valuable sources of knowledge.

The proximity of the powerful union likely helped influence the Black community’s trust in Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe and made it a popular after-hours spot for Black and white musicians.

People playing cards and shooting pool
[Uniformed African-American Railroad Porters], 1944. Photo by Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images.
People dining at a counter
Bronzeville The 1949 Green Book featured a seven-page article spotlighting Bronzeville, with a full-page image of the South Center department store, which employed 200 Black workers; the Mutual Assurance Company; the Metropolitan Funeral Parlor; and the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance building. Victor Green proudly called these places “monuments to Negro business.”

[In the Perfect Eat Shop, a restaurant on 47th Street near South Park, owned by Mr. E. Morris (Negro). Chicago, Illinois], 1942. Jack Delano. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-USW3-001469-D.
People posing in front of an airplane hangar
Robbins Airport Robbins was a semi-rural Black town south of Chicago, and a source of pride in the Black community. In 1931, John C. Robinson and Cornelius R. Coffey made Robbins the home of the only Black-owned and operated airport in America. Coffey would go on to train some of the Tuskegee Airmen – the first African American combat pilots in the U.S. Military.

[Robbins Airstrip], 1933. Thornton Studios. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 87-15492).

Excerpts from the film “Unemployment, the Negro, and Aviation,” produced by aviation visionary, William J. Powell in 1935. Filmed in Los Angeles at Eastside Air Field, Chicago native Powell was a link between these two centers of aviation activity. This rare footage was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by Philip S. Hart in 1986.

The Civil Rights Calendar 1965

1965 Carver Bank Calendar Carver Federal Savings and Loan Association, The Civil Rights Calendar, 1965. Black-owned. Collection of Arthur L . Field

Wedding Day Photograph (Wedding Day), Harlem, New York, 1962-1963. Jan Yoors. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Courtesy of Yoors Family and L. Parker Stephenson Gallery, (c) Jan Yoors.

Dining table

Smalls Paradise Photograph A small party of people at Small's Paradise in Harlem, after 1925. Leslie E. Bigham. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Hotel Theresa Photo Hotel Theresa, Seventh Ave. & 125th Street, 1915. Byron Company. The Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.5170.

Copa Snacks menu

Copacabana Menu Copacabana menu, 1930–60s. Collection of Arthur L. Field.

Hotel Algonquin dinner menu cover

Algonquin menu Hotel Algonquin Dinner Menu, Wednesday, June 10, 1959. Collection of Arthur L. Field.

Hotel Yorktowne

Hotel Yorktowne Postcard The Yorktowne Hotel opened in York, Pennsylvania, in 1925. The opulent Renaissance revival-style building was 11-stories tall, had over 400 windows, and 20-ft.-high ceilings. It was listed in the Green Book in the 1957–64 and 1966–67 editions, and served celebrities such as Jack Dempsey, Cab Calloway, Tony Bennett, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Lucille Ball, and Harry Belafonte. [Hotel Yorktowne, York, Pa.], ca. 1930-1945. The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library.

Rockefeller Center drawing

Rockefeller Brochure [Brochure for Rockefeller Center]. Collection of Arthur L. Field.

Click on the images to learn more information

People sitting and standing on the sand near the water Group photo
Shearer Cottage

Shearer Cottage, a Green Book site in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard, was a family-owned business that opened in 1903. Artists, judges, lawyers, and celebrities such as Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, and the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. all vacationed there. Today, the cottage is still a destination for a myriad of African American vacationers, and continues to host guests of prominence in the tradition of its first visitors.

The owner, Charles Shearer—who was born enslaved—turned this cottage into the first inn for Black vacationers on the Vineyard.

[Digital image of Taylor family children at the beach on Martha's Vineyard], 1950s. Ouida F. Taylor. [Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Gift of Dr. Teletia R. Taylor and descendants of Geraldine A. Taylor. Proprietor, "Taylor's Playfair."

[Gathering Outside of Shearer's Cottage], ca. 1931. Courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Museum and Lee Van Allen.
IDLEWILD Known as ‘BLACK EDEN,’ Idlewild was listed in the Green Book from 1939-1967
People standing in front of an Idlewild sign

Known as “Black Eden,” Idlewild was listed in the Green Book from 1938 to 1967. It was the largest and most legendary resort specifically created for Black travelers. Idlewild was purchased in 1912 by four white land developers, but it was marketed exclusively to Black people.

During its heyday, more than twenty-five thousand people patronized its more than three hundred black-owned businesses
Idlewild Train Stop: [Family Beneath Idlewild Sign]. Lake County Historical Society, Baldwin, Michigan.

Idlewild Club House dining room

Idlewild Dining Room: [Restaurant at Idlewild]. Lake County Historical Society, Baldwin, Michigan.

Flamingo Club exterior

Idlewild Club: [Flamingo Club at Idlewild]. Lake County Historical Society, Baldwin, Michigan.