Friday, June 5, 2020

The Negro Travelers' Green Book - Chicago Section, 1954.

The History of the Green Book written by Author Victor H. Green.
The Green Book, first published in 1936 under the title "The Negro Motorist Green Book," was a product of the rising African-American middle class having the finances and vehicle for travel but facing a world where social and legal restrictions barred them from many accommodations. At the time, there were thousands of "sundown towns," African-Americans were legally barred from spending the night there at all.
The book provides a guide to hotels and restaurants that would accept their business, often ones established specifically for the black customer. Published annually by Victor Hugo Green (1892-1960), a New Yorker who retired from his work as a mailman based on its success and expanded into the travel reservation business, the Green Book was for decades a vital handbook, fading out of business only after the civil rights laws of the 1960s brought about the end of legal segregation. It was sold largely through mail order and through service stations  specifically, through Esso [gasoline] stations, as Esso not only served African-American customers, they were willing to franchise their stations to African-Americans, unlike most petroleum companies of the day. The guide was also offered by AAA and distributed elsewhere with the advice from the United States Travel Bureau, a government agency. The last published issue was in 1967.

Chicago's Green Book Eras
In cities like Chicago, it would have been near mandatory to carry the Green Book on your person even for celebrities and affluent African-Americans, who were barred from downtown hotels and accommodations all over the city and suburbs based solely on their skin color.

Those traveling any great distance, for business or leisure, faced additional indignities and dangers — or, as Victor H. Green politely said, “difficulties and embarrassments” — that ranged from the commonplace refusal of service at hotels and restaurants to the hazards of sundown towns, where negroes risked harassment, arrest, assault, and even lynchings if they dared to be caught within that city's limits after dark.

At the start of Route 66 in Chicago, the Green Book would have pointed travelers to the listings located in the South Side’s black community called "Bronzeville," which was built by the thousands upon thousands of blacks who flooded the Chicago area as part of the Great Migration (1916-1970).

Confined to a narrow stretch of land by restrictive real estate covenants and redlining and prevented from patronizing whites-only establishments, African-Americans in Chicago responded by creating businesses by themselves, for themselves.

“This community had its own agency. It’s strong testimony that we are business leaders in our own right,” said Sherry Williams, founder of the Bronzeville Historical Society. “It just shows the enterprise that was going on in the neighborhood.”
The Southway Hotel, 6012 South Parkway, Chicago.
Count Basie played the Parkway Ballroom, Duke Ellington stayed at the Southway Hotel and Joe Louis celebrated his heavyweight championship at the Palm Tavern — all Green Book sites.
The Palm Tavern at 466 East 47th Street in Chicago's Bronzeville Community.
“My grandmother used to tell me about the nights she would hang out at the Parkway Ballroom and who was there and how it felt. It was all about elegance and white gloves and top hats and tuxedos,” said Cliff  Rome. “If the streets were talking, could you imagine what they would tell you?”
The Parkway Ballroom at 420 East 45th Street, Chicago.
In its own account of its history, the Drake Hotel says: “Throughout the 1950s and 60s the political and social climate of Chicago was evolving and The Drake was inclined to develop alongside the city.”

Albion Hotel, 4009 Lake Park Avenue
Don Hotel, 3337 South Michigan Avenue
Du Sable, 764 East Oakwood Boulevard
Eberhart Hotel, 6050 Eberhart Avenue
Evans Hotel, 733 East 61st Street
Garfield, 231 East Garfield Boulevard
Grand Hotel, 5044 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968] (pictured below)
Harlem Hotel, 5020 South Michigan Avenue
Hotel Como, 5204-6  South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
Loretta, 6201 South Vernon Avenue
Manor House Hotel, 4635 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968] (pictured below)
Monarch Hotel, 4530 Prairie Avenue
Pershing Hotel, 6400 Cottage Grove Avenue (pictured below)
Prairie Hotel, 2836 Prairie Avenue 
Ritz Hotel, 409 East Oakwood Boulevard
S & S, 4142 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
South Central, 520 East 47th Street
Southerland, 47th Street & Drexel Boulevard
Southway Hotel, 6012 South Park  Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
Spencer Hotel, 300 East Garfield Boulevard
Strand, 63rd Street & Cottage Grove Avenue
Vienna, 3921 South Indiana Avenue
Wedgewood Towers, Woodlawn Avenue at 64th Street (pictured below)
Y.M.C.A., 3763 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
Y.M.C.A., 4559 South Park Way [ Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]

Day's, 3616 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
Poro College, 4415 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]

A & J, 105 East 51st Street
Morris' 410 E. 47th Street
Parkway Ballroom, 420 East 45th Street
Pioneer, 533 East 43rd Street
Pitts, 812 East 39th Street
Wrights, 3753 South Wabash Avenue

Matties', 4214 South Cottage Grove Avenue

Bank's, 209 East 39th Street

El Casino, 823 East 39th Street
Key Hole, 3965 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
The Palm, 466 East 47th Street

820 Club, 820 East 39th Street
Delux, 6323 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]
Show Boat, 6109 South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]

Parkway, 340 West Grand Avenue
Standard, Garfield Boulevard & South Park Way [Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jr. in 1968]

Zephyr, 4535 South Cottage Grove Avenue

Charles Baron, 3840 South Michigan Avenue

Thompson, 545 East 47th Street

Perkin, 419 South State Street

Sam's, 2255 West Madison Street.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. As a child, I lived on 62nd and South Parkway north of the Southway Hotel where black entertainers who came to Chicago to perform stayed. Looking through the street level windows I could see the formal dining room where the tables covered with white table cloths, crystal glasses and fine silverware. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to to see the elaborately dressed doorman hold the door open for one those famous black performers.


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