The guide was designed to help Black Americans navigate to...

The guide was designed to help Black Americans navigate to places where they would feel welcome. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/Heritage Image Partnership Ltd

These days, it's called the Friendly Barber Shop, with a sign saying “open” still hanging in the window. Inside, there are three barber chairs.

In 1947, the same North Amityville site was known as “Jimmy's,” or “Jimmie's Barber Shop,” and it was a place where Black travelers could sit for their shaves and haircuts in comfort, unafraid of being mistreated because of their race.

That shop was one of dozens of Long Island sites named in “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a travelogue published between 1936 through the 1960s that featured taverns, hotels and other places where Black motorists were made to feel welcome.

The Friendly Barber Shop, in North Amityville, formerly known as...

The Friendly Barber Shop, in North Amityville, formerly known as "Jimmy's," was one of the sites listed in the Green Book, an annual guidebook for African American road-trippers. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez

With entries ranging from the Apollo Theater to the Sky Motel and Pines Motor Lodge in Lindenhurst, the guide, created by Harlem couple Victor and Alma Green, charted out venues where Black motorists could avoid racial degradation and have easier travels.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The "Green Book," published between the 1930s and 1960s, was a popular travel guide used by Black travelers to avoid racism in their journeys. 
  • Long Island has dozens of sites in the guide, including places such as the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook and a number of motels. 
  • The guide, which also had names such as “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” was published at a time in the nation's story when getting fair treatment at places such as gas stations, stores and restaurants could be difficult or impossible for Black people. 

The introduction of several Green Books read in part: “[I]t has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable."

The guide, which also had names such as “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” was published at a time in the nation's story when getting fair treatment at places such as gas stations, stores and restaurants could be difficult or impossible for Black people. 

And at the same time, Black motorists also were taking to the nation’s roadways for leisure, work and relocation amid the Great Migration, which propelled millions of Black people out of the South from roughly the 1910s through to the 1970s, according to the Library of Congress. Many of them made the trek north on American roadways for jobs and opportunities in places such as New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia.

But even outside of the South, many of the Black people who made that trek found racism persisted.

Black travelers may have still dealt with odd stares or poor service from a hotel, historians said. Many Black travelers at the time adapted, packing “shoe box” lunches because they might be unable to get served meals. They closely followed speed limits to avoid getting pulled over by police or started their travels very early in the morning to take advantage of daylight hours.

Cover page of the 1941 edition of "The Negro Motorist...

Cover page of the 1941 edition of "The Negro Motorist Green-Book," from the National Museum of African Art Collection in Washington, D.C. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo/J Marshall-Tribaleye Images

Zebulon Miletsky, a Stony Brook University associate professor of Africana studies, said all these considerations — and more — stem from the idea that “you just can't take those kinds of chances when you're Black in America.”

“At best, one’s dignity could be tarnished,” Miletsky said. “At worst … something else could go quite wrong.”

And it is in that world that Victor Green began publishing the Green Books in 1936. The 1937 version mentioned Jones Beach and Fire Island. It would later expand to most states and internationally, and included locations like Memphis' Lorraine Motel, the location where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

There were also other travel guides for Black motorists, including the “Travelguide” and “Hackley and Harrison's Hotel & Apartment Guide for Colored Travelers,” experts say.

The Pines Motor Lodge in Lindenhurst was one of the...

The Pines Motor Lodge in Lindenhurst was one of the sites listed in the Green Book, an annual guidebook for African-American road-trippers. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez

But Green's guide was one of the more popular ones. A postal worker, he personally visited some of the sites to see if they should fit in the guide and hired people to check out the sites, historians say. And in the pages, Green struck a sometimes-comedic tone mixed with a strong message of precaution, telling motorists to have their vehicles in travel-ready condition and to call ahead to a site if possible.

“An Ounce of Prevention is worth more than a Pound of Cure,” at least one edition read.

And thus, the Green Book became an act of communal love, “resistance” and “optimism” for African American travelers, said Alvin Hall, broadcaster and author of the book “Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance.”

“They'd find subtle, sometimes obvious, ways to resist, but they also were proactive in creating something for themselves that gave them joy, that gave them freedom,” said Hall, who produced a short documentary where he took a road trip through several Green Book sites on Long Island.

On Long Island, the sites mentioned in the Green Book come in different shapes and sizes, from motels to a person’s house. The listings give an insight into places where Black people might have felt more comfortable. 

Boyd’s Beauty Parlor — also called Boyd’s — in North Amityville was named in the Green Book in the 1940s and ’50s. The salon was in the home of Mary Rainey Boyd, according to a package put together by Town of Babylon historian Mary Cascone that cited the "Architecture of the Negro Traveler’s" work. And after completing a hairdressing class, she held a luncheon for graduates, according to a newspaper article in the New York Amsterdam News.

Another one of the North Amityville sites was the Watervilet, which may have gone by names such as Ross’ and Water Violet Tea Room, the package said. It was listed in the Green Book from 1947 to 1955.

In Riverhead, Peter’s Motel was listed in the Green Book. An advertisement in Ebony magazine describes the motel as being in a scenic area and featuring a menu with choice wines, steaks and seafood.

But many sites on Long Island — like Peter’s Motel — no longer stand as businesses, while other sites have changed names, though their facades remain. For instance, the St. Mortiz Motel is now a Babylon assisted living facility, the package said. 

On a summer evening in 1958 in Stony Brook, jazz luminary Duke Ellington and his integrated 15-person orchestra played at the Dogwood Hollow amphitheater, according to a brochure from the performance. 

In the succeeding years, the stage played host to other Black music stars, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. A photo from around those times showed a desegregated audience.

The Dogwood Hollow stopped having performances in the 1970s. Nearby is the Three Village Inn — a Green Book site that stands today and is a likely place where many of those icons stayed. 

The hotel has about 30 rooms and was developed by Ward Melville, a business owner who personally paid for many of the musicians to come, said Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Although the guide listed many locations, Victor Green knew many places not listed where people of color would have been welcomed.

“There are thousands of places that the public doesn't know about and aren't listed,” several Green Books noted.

The Ivy Cottage in Eastville was likely mentioned in some editions of the Green Books. A 1938 version lists an Ivy Cottage in Sag Harbor.

The cottage where people of color could stay in the 1930s and ’40s was an important site, according to Charles Certain, whose great aunt, Helen Crippen Certain Johnson, ran the business. 

She stayed in the downstairs portion of the house, while upstairs is where guests stayed, said Certain, a 68-year-old who identifies as Indigenous.

Today, the house is still standing, though a family member sold it.

Yet, Certain, a saxophonist who lives in Hampton Bays, said his great aunt and other small business leaders of color mentioned in the pages of Green Books saw a need and filled it.

“They were … forced to do it because what else was there back then,” he said.

With Anastasia Valeeva

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