Arkansas Listings in the Negro Motorist Green Book
Published between 1936 and 1966, The Negro Motorist Green Book (commonly called the Green Book) provided African American travelers information on hotels, restaurants, and other amenities that would serve Black Americans during a time when many establishments would not. While it was initially focused on the New York City area, the popularity of the title led to the inclusion of other places across the country. It was published by Victor Hugo Green until his death in 1960 and then for a few more years. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the expansion of interstate highways led to the demise of the publication.
Numerous businesses in Arkansas appeared in various editions of the book. The earliest edition to contain Arkansas listings was the 1939 Green Book. Only hotels and tourist homes are included in the Arkansas section, while other states have a variety of businesses listed. Cities included in this edition are Arkadelphia (Clark County), Camden (Ouachita County), El Dorado (Union County), Fayetteville (Washington County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Helena (Phillips County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Russellville (Pope County), and Texarkana (Miller County). The listings include an address or intersection for most of the businesses, although a few include only a street name. Businesses could buy an advertisement that detailed the services available to travelers, although none of the Arkansas listings included any information other than the name and location.
Businesses listed in 1939 edition include the Vincent and New Vincent hotels on West Ninth Street in Little Rock and the Pythian and Woodmen Hotels on Malvern Avenue in Hot Springs. Most of the businesses listed were private homes where travelers might find a bed for the night. Many of the businesses in Little Rock included in this and subsequent editions focused upon the West Ninth Street neighborhood (once a cultural and business center for African Americans), while Hot Springs businesses were located on and near Malvern Avenue.
The 1940 edition included additional businesses, with restaurants, barbershops, and beauty salons listed in the Arkadelphia and Texarkana sections. The Pyschean Baths appear in the Hot Springs listing for travelers wanting to relax. The 1941 edition saw the first small advertisement for an Arkansas listing, with the Lafayette Luncheon at 904 State Street in Little Rock appearing in bold type. The first listing for a North Little Rock (Pulaski County) business, the De Luxe Café, also appeared in this edition.
The 1947 edition included information on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with the Arkansas listing showing Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), Shorter College, Arkansas Baptist College, Dunbar Junior College, and Philander Smith College. Newspapers serving the Black community were also listed: the Crusader Journal in Hot Springs; the Arkansas Press, Arkansas State Press, and Arkansas Survey Journal in Little Rock; and the Negro Spokesman in Pine Bluff.
The popularity of the publication led to travel-related businesses advertising in the Green Book. General Motors and Ford both included information on their new models for the 1947 edition. Articles on smaller companies, including both the Keller and Tucker car companies, appeared in the 1948 edition, along with an editorial encouraging travelers to use Esso service stations during their trips.
Hope (Hempstead County) and Fordyce (Dallas County) businesses appeared in the 1947 edition, with Brinkley (Monroe County) and South Camden (Ouachita County) establishments appearing in the 1948 edition. Little Rock businesses included the typical hotels, tourist homes, service stations, and restaurants, but beauty parlors, beauty culture schools, night clubs, barbershops, liquor stores, taverns, drug stores, and tailors also appeared in the guide. Multiple businesses had the same address. For example, the 1955 edition listed the Summer Hotel, Summers Liquor Store, and Jim Summers Restaurant, all at 740 Adams Avenue in Camden.
The 1951 edition included extra information for railroad travelers, and a similarly themed air travel edition appeared in 1953.
The 1954 edition included a section listing motels across the country that desired business from Black travelers. The McKenzie Unique Motel in Hot Springs and Bond’s Motel outside of Madison (St. Francis County) both appear in this section. Bond’s Motel included a full-page advertisement on the opposite page. McKenzie Unique Motel was eventually converted to apartments, still inhabited in the twenty-first century.
The 1956 edition included listings for services directly related to travel such as hotels, motels, tourist homes, and restaurants, but the listings for other businesses such as liquor stores, tailors, and drugstores are absent. The 1959 edition contained a listing for Freeman’s Tourist Court in Tuckerman (Jackson County).
Many of the businesses listed in the 1960 edition purchased advertisements in the publication. Businesses in Blytheville (Mississippi County) and Crawfordsville (Crittenden County) appear in the publication. By the final edition, which appeared in 1966, businesses in Conway (Faulkner County) and West Memphis (Crittenden County) were listed.
Buildings that appeared in editions of the book and were still standing in the first decades of the twenty-first century include the Lewis-Wilson Hotel at 217 East 3rd Street in Hope; the building was occupied by a power tool company. Burnell’s Service Station located at 204 Grinstead Street in Camden stands vacant. The Texan Inn appeared in a full-page advertisement in the 1960 edition listing the hotel and apartment building at 605 Pleasant Street in Hot Springs; the building still stands in the twenty-first century but at 305 Pleasant Street. The National Baptist Hotel and Bath House on Malvern Avenue in Hot Springs appears under various names in editions of the Green Book; it was serving as a senior living facility by 2023. L. C. Pettis Enterprises advertised three businesses in Hot Springs on Silver Street in the 1960 edition, including a restaurant, a tourist court, and a combined nightclub and café; the combined club and restaurant called the Bull Dog Inn still stands at 247 Silver Street and at least some of the tourist court cabins still stand at 403 Silver Street, although they were combined into a single structure. Many of the locations in Hot Springs became part of the Pleasant Street Historic District. The Latimore Tourist Home in Russellville remains standing but was listed on Preserve Arkansas’s 2018 List of Most Endangered Properties in the state; since then, a local group organized for the purposes of restoring the property.
Many of the commercial buildings listed in the book no longer stand or were housed in converted homes. The C and D Hotels on Church Street in Hot Springs appear in an advertisement in the 1959 edition of Green Book, and the location today is part of the Hot Springs Convention Center and parking lot.
For additional information:
Clancy, Sean. “The Green Book.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 17, 2021. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/may/17/the-green-book/ (accessed February 8, 2023).
Edmark, David. “Fayetteville in the Green Book: ‘A Knit Community.’” Flashback 69 (Fall 2019): 125–132.
“The Green Book.” New York Public Libraries Digital Collections, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/the-green-book#/?tab=navigation (accessed February 8, 2023).
Hall, Alvin. Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip through the Living History of Black Resistance. New York: HarperOne, 2023.
“Pleasant Street Historic District.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/ga0712-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=6a0f6944_0 (accessed February 8, 2023).
Schnedler, Jack. “Safe Passage.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 27, 2019, pp. 1E, 6E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jan/27/safe-passage-20190127/ (accessed February 8, 2023).
Sorin, Gretchen. Driving while Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. New York: Liveright Publishing, 2020.
“Taborian Hall.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/ahpp-documents/pu3162.nr0c6fba09-204b-4b16-9825-ba2daaba85d5.pdf?sfvrsn=ea5bfbc0_3 (accessed February 8, 2023).
“Woodmen of Union Building.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/ga0469-pdf.pdf?sfvrsn=b4f9de52_0 (accessed February 8, 2023).
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