The month of December is often described as a time of peace, harmony and good will to all. Yet the Green Book, a relic from the past, tells of a time when this season wasn’t always “merry & bright” for everyone. In the segregated South it required nerve and courage for a Black man/family to drive and face physical risks because the rules of segregation varied from one place to the next. For example, many Blacks carried portable toilets in their trunks as they were prohibited from using many public restrooms. Thus, car travel for Black citizens were often difficult and filled with many hardships.
To avoid these risks and dangers, a Black mailman from New York, Victor Hugo Green, published an annual guidebook for Black travelers from 1936 to 1966. Here he listed businesses that welcomed African Americans in a safe and comfortable environment before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In Jacksonville, hotels, tourist/boarding rooms, night clubs, barber shops, restaurants, and drugstores were listed in the various editions. Tourist homes included Mrs. E. H. Flipper at 739 W. Church Street and L. D. Jefferson at 1838 Moncrief Road. Hotels such as the lesser-known Blue Chip Hotel at 514 Broad Street were noted. Restaurants such as Blu-Goose at 1363 Davis Street, and drugstores such as Smith’s 613 Ashley Street were included. Many of these iconic locations are a memory and no longer exist. However, Green wrote “there will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published as we, as a race, will have equal opportunities and equal privileges.”
As Ba Jin, Chinese author and political activist, penned “it is only by not forgetting the past can we be the master of the future.” Let’s hope this time is now.
The Green Book is an example of the JHS’s research collection that helps preserve and share the truth about Jacksonville’s past.
Librarian, Jacksonville Historical Society