This Month in History – Exploring New Hanover County’s Green Book sites

In 1936, Harlem postal worker Victor H. Green began publishing The Negro Motorist Green-Book. This guide helped African Americans navigate the nation’s highways and byways. It provided listings of safe stopping places. For a small sum, African American travelers could buy the guide and plan trips with some sense of security that they could find places where they would be served along the highways.

Black men and women who could afford to purchase an automobile could escape some of the pains and humiliations of traveling on trains, buses, and streetcars in the Jim Crow era. A family traveling by car did not have to sit in a segregated rail or bus station, did not have to ride in a segregated railcar, did not have to sit in the back of the bus, and did not have to interact with hostile white passengers or public transit employees.

Although cars let Black families escape the constant humiliations of the Jim Crow railcar, automobile travel could also be a challenging experience. As a letter to Victor H. Green published in the 1938 edition of the Green Book put it, “It is a book badly needed among our Race since the advance of the motor age.” In every region of the US, white-owned roadside businesses routinely denied African Americans service. Black travelers often struggled to find a place to sleep, eat, drink, use the restroom, or buy gas as they traveled.

Wilmington was first listed in the Green Book in 1939.  Over the years of the book’s publication, more than 50 local sites were listed.  Cape Fear Museum is currently hosting an exhibit, Navigating Jim Crow: The Green Book and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina, on view until August 29, 2021.

To learn more about New Hanover County’s Green Book sites, click here to explore the story map. 


Previous Columns

July: A popularity contest, July 1915
The Competition Heats Up June 18, 1884
A New Hospital is dedicated, May 7, 1967
The First Earth Day, 1970
Women and the Wilmington Museum of Art
African Americans Working on the Railroad
January 2021:
January 9, 1861
Holiday Gifts
November 11, 1918 – Armistice is Signed
Fire Prevention Week, October 8 through 14, 1972
Neal Thomas’s One-Man Show, September 13, 1958
August 26, 1920 – the Women’s Suffrage Amendment is officially ratified 
July 15, 1977, One Short March, One Long Journey
D-Day, Henry Jay MacMillan, and World War II
Firestarter Premieres on College Road
The Kenan Memorial Fountain gets a facelift, April 14, 2005
Lethia Sherman Hankins
The Great Fire of 1886
January 2020:
Cape Fear Museum gets a new home, January 18, 1992

A selection of Green Book covers
Courtesy of New York Public Library

New Hanover County's Green Book sites
814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382
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