Prior to the 1960s, African American travelers used word-of-mouth, and later guidebooks, in order to know which motels and restaurants would serve them. Now, the city of Los Angeles is considering adding some of these Green Book locations as historical landmarks, which would preserve an essential part of the city's as well as the country's history.
The Los Angeles Times tells the story of one such motel, the Hayes, one of "224 Los Angeles hotels, barbershops, beauty salons, taverns, motels and other places the guide deemed friendly to blacks traveling America’s highways."
The city, working along side the Getty Conservation Institute, will seek to rehabilitate and add protections to the still-standing sites, potentially adding some to the list of L.A. Historic-Cultural Monuments.
The Green Book was first published by Victor H. Green in 1936. Green, a Harlem postal worker, wanted travelers to avoid "embarrassing situations" while on the road. At it's peak, the Green Book was selling 15,000 copies a year, but it ceased publication in 1964, the year The Civil Rights Act was passed.
Of the city's list of sites to protect, only 56 remain in their original form, including The Dunbar Hotel, a popular destination for African-American celebrities like Louis Armstrong who could not stay in whites-only hotels.
But the more interesting ones in LA's registry, as well as in the old editions of the Green Book, are the lesser-known ones, including individual residences, like "a modest wood-framed house in the 1200 block of South New Hampshire Street listed in the guide as the residence of "Mrs. J. O. Banks." It's that type of location that really needs protecting.
And that's exactly what some think will happen:
"It’s almost a miracle that there is such a diverse physical legacy of Green Book properties," said Frank Norris, a historian with the National Park Service’s National Trails office, which oversees the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. "I expect to see a number of these structures nominated to the National Register of Historic Places."
In the introduction of the 1949 edition, Victor Green wrote, “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States.”
It's now up to places like the city of Los Angeles to protect those places, so that people don't forgot why that guide was published in the first place.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: email@example.com