Green Books history + Chattanooga listings

The front of the “Travelers’ Green Book” from 1966-1967 | Screenshot from the NYPL digital collections

Until the 1960s, motorists could purchase a Green Book, which was a list of safe places for Black travelers. Some of those safe places were on Chattanooga’s Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Explain the Green Book

Also known as the the Negro Motorist Green Book, New York City mail carrier Victor Green saw an opportunity to publish a book that listed safe hotels, restaurants, gas stations + other travel accommodations that would welcome Black patrons.

The first Green Book was published in 1937, and the final edition was published in the late ‘60s, titled “Travelers’ Green Book: 1966-67 International Edition: For Vacation Without Aggravation.” The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

They were even described as “the bible of every Negro highway traveler…you literally didn’t dare leave home without it.”

“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 rights and privileges in the United States.”Victor Green

What about Chattanooga?

In 2019, the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation in partnership with architectural historians in Nashville and Chattanooga documented Green Book sites in Tennessee. The guide highlights research on five different sites + photos of buildings that are still in existence. In this source, there are four listed in Chattanooga, though there were quite a few more throughout the years these books were published.

  • Mrs. Etta Brown Tourist Home | 1129 E. 8th St. | A home that was available for Black travelers when the hotels were full.
  • Martin Hotel | 204 E. 9th Street (MLK Blvd.) | This hotel had 50 rooms + a restaurant, and it was the first Black business in Chattanooga to receive a license to serve beer after prohibition. The building was demolished in 1986. More on its history here.
  • Rowland Drug Store | 330 E. 9th St. (now 328 MLK Blvd.) | The building now houses Salon 30-A, Gig City Games (which appears to have closed), and apartments.
  • Madam C.J. Walker’s College of Beauty Culture/La Vogue Beauty Lounge | 517 E. 9th St. (MLK Blvd.) | Now home to Mr. Burrito Grill + Barber Kings. Madam C.J. Walker’s company (Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture) created schools + training opportunities for Black women across the country, and one was in Chattanooga. You can check out a copy of the textbook here + Netflix released a series about Walker’s life last year.

Keep digging here.

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