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An atmosphere of violence rained on the heads
of African Americans, just for the color of their skin. Yet, Black people traveled, lived, laughed, played,
sang, danced, and rejected the oppression.

Car over green line
Green Book sites were a welcome relief from
the ominous presence of Jim Crow.

Going south, Black families readied themselves for an inhospitable world. First, the absolute necessities: a full can of gas, and ice coolers with “shoebox lunches”— eggs, sandwiches, and fried chicken.

Other essentials were unique to Black Americans: portable toilets, blankets that doubled as partitions for makeshift roadside restrooms, and spare fuses and light bulbs to avoid visiting unfriendly service stations for repairs.

Kids in a car
Credit: Kids in Car: First Day of Memphis Integration, TN, 1961. Dr. Ernest C. Withers. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. (C) Ernest C. Withers Trust
Sign that says This is KKK country
Credit: KKK Country: ['This Is KKK Country' sign]. LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-05582.
“…it was on the outskirts of Atlanta that I first felt how the southern landscape– the trees, the silence, the liquid heat, and the fact that one always seems to be traveling great distances – seems designed for violence, seems almost, to demand it.”
– JAMES BALDWIN, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son, 1961
Image Credit: [Segregation in Albany - Street Scenes]. Warren K. Leffler. Library of Congress, LC-U9-8339- 37.
Single story buildings

Charlie's Place Charlie Fitzgerald ran Charlie’s Place, a Green Book site and legendary nightclub in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was the stage for some of America’s greatest musicians: Etta James, Fats Domino, Count Basie, and James Brown were common headliners. Credit: Jack Thompson. All Rights.

Swetts ad

Swett's Restaurant Swett’s is one of few Black-owned businesses in Nashville, Tennessee. The restaurant opened in 1954 and was listed in the Green Book in 1960 and 1961. Since the beginning, it has been family-owned; more than sixty years since its founding it is still open for business. Credit: Swett’s Restaurant tiled sign, no date, tile, wood. Courtesy of Swett’s Restaurant, Nashville, TN.

People eating at a large table

Church Picnic Those who left the South to escape Jim Crow also left loved ones behind. It was in going back home that many found the Green Book so useful. With the Green Book, Black Americans could reunite with the ones they loved and find new community along the way. Much anticipated annual church events called Homecomings were richly exciting and beloved community rituals, that affirmed and sustained family ties separated by miles of geography. Credit: [Outdoor Picnic Held During a Meeting of Ministers and Deacons of the Negro Church], 1940. Marion Post Wolcott. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ds-01276.

Dooky Chase exterior

Dooky Chase The Dooky Chase restaurant listed in the Green Book from 1947 to 1964, opened in 1941 in New Orleans. The restaurant began as a sandwich shop, bar, and check cashing retailer. There were no Black-owned banks in New Orleans, therefore Black people who worked along the Mississippi couldn’t easily find a place to cash their checks. Dooky’s became a community hub and a vital resource. Credit: [Dooky Chase Restaurant], Courtesy the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation

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Loading suitcases into a car
Richland, South Carolina

Credit: Boys Leave for Orthopedic Camp, July 3, 1958. Ross Pearsons. From The State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland Library, Columbia, S.C. [state_015_0061]. Courtesy of Richland Library, Columbia, S.C.
People standing next to and in a car
Highland Beach, Maryland

Credit: Picnic Group, Highland Beach, MD, 1931. Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Merry go round
Virginia Key Beach Park, Florida

Credit: [Virginia Key Beach Park Alan Hershel Carousel Amusement Ride], ca. 1950s. Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, Miami, FL

While many travelers driving in the South did so to visit family and friends, many also sought the sun and fun of beach recreation. Beaches were staunchly segregated, and over the life of the Green Book,  only seven were included.

Two of the most popular were Carr’s and Sparrow’s beaches, both on the Chesapeake Bay, near Annapolis, Maryland.

South Carolina’s Atlantic Beach was another major tourist destination. It was referred to as the “Black Pearl,” and founded by George W. Tyson, a Black businessman who had paid $2,000 for 47 acres of oceanfront land in 1934

People leaning on a ledge
[Virginia Key Beach Park Concession Stand], ca. 1950s. Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, Miami, FL
Postcard of Atlantic Beach, SC
Postcard: [Street Scene at Atlantic Beach, S.C.], ca. 1930-1945. The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library.
Sign that reads Dade County Parks Virginia Beach Colored Only
The Green Book Helped Point the Way to Joy

Unlike beaches for white Americans, “colored beaches” were seldom supported by local authorities, and therefore lacked finances for basic safety and health standards. Even at the beach, Black Americans were at greater risk of harm simply for the color of their skin.

And, yet and still, the “Colored Only Beach” is an experience remembered in rich tones of joy and freedom.

[Virginia Key Beach Park Entry way], ca. 1950s. Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, Miami, FL