Exploring Green Books history in Asheville, NC

Until the 1960s, motorists could purchase a Green Book, which was a list of safe places for Black travelers. Some of those safe places were on + around Asheville’s Eagle Street. So let’s get into the history of Green Books + their Asheville connections.

Victor Green + two Green Book covers | Photo from Wikimedia Commons

What is a Green Book?

Also known as the Negro Motorist Green Book, New York City mail carrier Victor Green saw an opportunity to publish a book that listed safe hotels, restaurants, and other travel accommodations that would welcome + make travel safe for Black patrons.

The first Green Book was published in 1937, and the final edition was published in the late ’60s, titled “Travelers’ Green Book: 1966-67 International Edition: For Vacation Without Aggravation.” The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

They were even described as “the bible of every Negro highway traveler…you literally didn’t dare leave home without it.”

What is their Asheville connection?

Asheville businesses appeared in several iterations of the Green Book. Here are just a few that once lived in Asheville:

📗 The Savoy Hotel | 409 Southside Ave. | Formerly the Booker T. Washington Hotel-Dance Hall-Theatre-For Colored, this entry can be found in the hotels category from 1952-1955. The Savoy was built in 1928 + had a theater on the first floor, a ballroom,, and a lobby on the second floor, and the third floor boasted a three-room mezzanine apartment, 20 rooms and six bathrooms.

📗 Do Drop In Barber Shop | 4 Eagle St. | This barber shop was added to the Green Book in 1960 + was operated by Vernon Miller. The shop’s tagline was “Best Haircut in Town” and spent 20 years in the same location according to the city directory.

📗 The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA | 360 College St. | This entry can be found in the 1941 edition. In 1913, a group of Black women created the Employment Club, with the goal of finding work for their members + sponsoring recreational programs. The women bought a building on Market Street three years later for a YWCA branch, but during World War I, they gave it to the US government for soldiers to use. The building was returned after the war and opened in September, 1921. It was one of Asheville’s primary centers for Black folks to have social activity for nearly four decades.

Keep digging here.

 

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