How African-Americans Dealt with “Southern Hospitality” in the Pre-Desegregation Era
May 13, 2016 § 2 Comments
For African-Americans travelling through the south in the Jim Crow days, it could be a dicey proposition finding accommodations. White hotels, restaurants, night clubs, resorts, and even service stations reserved the “right to refuse service to anyone,” which meant, decoded, that neither persons of color nor their money were welcome. If you waited to discover what might be available locally when you arrived at your destination, you and your family might just wind up spending the night in your car.
To meet the challenges of southern travel in that era, non-white travelers had to rely on guidebooks to help them plan their journeys. One such was The Negro Motorist Green Book published by Victor Green of New York. The link will take you to an article in the excellent Preservation in Mississippi Blog that talks about the publication.
Green’s guide was initially published to cover the New York City area, but there was such demand for its content that it soon expanded to cover the hinterland. Mississippi was first listed in 1939. You can view the Mississippi lodging page for that year at this link. It lists “tourist homes” — private residences offering lodging for travelers — in eight communities: Charleston, Greenville, Grenada, “Macomb”, Meridian, New Albany, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City. Hotels were listed by name and address in six of those same cities: Queen City, 15th St. and 7th Ave., Columbus; Bass, S. Pine St., Laurel; Kingston Park, N. Section, Kingston community, Laurel; Townsend, 534 Summit St., McComb; Beales, 2411 Fifth St., Meridian; Foot’s, Railroad Ave., New Albany; and Caldwell, Water and Broadway Sts., Yazoo City.
A more detailed article on Meridian’s accommodations from various editions of the Green Book can be found at this link.
When I was young, (in the 50″s),Vicksburg had an African American motel on hwy 60 east of town, but there were no places to eat unless they went to the grocery across the road which would make sandwiches for its customers. the motel has fallen into disrepair but should be preserved as a monument to those who tried to provide accommodations.
I remember Lucimarian Roberts, who was married to a Tuskegee Airman, Col. Lawrence Roberts, talk about traveling to Mississippi after Larry was assigned to Keesler Air Force Base. They had to travel with packed food because of the scarcity of restaurants that would serve African-Americans. The found a sympathetic manager of a motor court in one town in Mississippi who let them have a room for the night (they arrived very late at night), but they would have to leave before daylight so that no one would know that the place had let them stay.