The Virginia Green Book website documents the sites in The Negro Motorist Green Book located within the Commonwealth of Virginia.
As an aside, click here to read my article about the free-labor colony that emerged in the area surrounding George Washington’s Mount Vernon after his death. Published in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Volume 125, Number 1. Coauthored with Maddy McCoy.
But what is The Green Book?
Victor Green, a mail carrier in New York City, began publishing The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1937. He saw the need for a guidebook to help African-Americans safely navigate the country during Jim Crow segregation. Over time, people referred to the pamphlet simply as The Green Book, both for its publisher’s name and its distinctive green cover. The first volume listed New York sites only, but within ten years the publication included 46 states. By 1967, the final year of publication, the guide covered the entire United States, as well as several foreign destinations. Surprisingly, at least to me, the Esso (Standard Oil) Corporation supported The Green Book by selling it in their gas stations. Esso was one of the few gas stations that sold gas to African-Americans. Green was an optimist, writing in the 1948 issue:
“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 will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”
Partly due to its centralized location along the mid-Atlantic coast, the Commonwealth of Virginia maintains a major presence in The Green Book from 1938 to 1964. In addition to its centralized location, Virginia features multiple recreational and cultural amenities. From the beaches of the Tidewater area to the Appalachian Mountains to the rich historical sites scattered throughout the state, Virginia offers something for everyone. The map below delineates all Virginia sites listed in The Green Book.
I designed the Virginia Green Book Map to be explored using the following process:
- Click on the four-corner icon () in the upper right corner of the map. That opens the map in a new window and allows you to see a drop-down menu that lists every site by city.
- To navigate at this point you have two options:
- Click on a pin ()to bring up information on that particular site, or
- Use the aforementioned drop-down menu on the left to find the location of a specific pin. Either way, the display will look similar to the image below.
- Use the + and – buttons in the lower left to zoom in and out.
- The pins are color coded:
- Green means that the building is either extant or possibly extant (NOTE:Sample image above is from older version that used blue pins instead of green);
- Red means that it is demolished;
- Yellow means that I do not know the status.
I have not yet visited all of the sites; hence the uncertainty as to the status of several sites. Please contact me using the form below if you can help with missing information or if you have additional tips about how to get the most out of what I have done. Over time I plan to add photographs of all of the sites, as well as detailed information on each. I will also add historic maps.
This website grew out of a project initiated by Catherine Zipf, who organized a group of architectural historians to create Green Book posters for display at the annual meeting of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH) in the fall of 2016. Dr. Zipf graciously approved my request to tackle the Virginia poster. Starting with 5 posters at SESAH 2016, our rag-tag band of architectural historians completed or begun work on approximately 20 posters. We exhibit them at conferences and lectures and plan to create posters for each state.
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Many thanks to Dr. Zipf for including me in this project. Anne Bruder, Senior Architectural Historian with the Maryland State Highway Administration, has also been enormously helpful. I’d also like to thank Brian Katen, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Virginia Tech, and Krystyn Moon, Associate Professor and Program Director of American Studies at Mary Washington University, for their guidance and assistance. Finally, I’d like to thank Jennifer Reut, Senior Editor with Landscape Architecture Magazine and creator of the website Mapping the Greenbook. Please check out Dr. Reut’s website – it’s fantastic. She is also working on a map of Virginia Green Book sites, which I know will be superior to mine. I’ll keep you posted on her progress. Check out Dr. Reut’s Society of Architectural Historians Archipedia entry “Black Travelers On and Off the Road”
For more information on The Green Book, please see:
Thank you for reading this far, and please contact me with any comments or questions.
Virginia Green Book – Questions?
If you have any questions or comment about this site, contact me through the form below: