Explore the locations visited in the Driving the Green Book podcast. Host Alvin Hall shares the Green Book travel guide sites that helped Black Americans on the road and recommends pit stops and historic civil rights sites that are must-see stops.MoreLess
The creator of The Negro Motorist Green Book, Victor Hugo Green, ran an advertising office and travel agency in room 215A of this building before it was converted into a school. Originally, Green ran his office from his Sugar Hill apartment, but in 1942, with the 6th edition of the guide, he moved into this office space. Today, the building houses the Thurgood Marshall Academy School for Learning and Social Change.
Formerly known as Hotel Theresa this building was one of the only luxury New York City hotels to welcome African American entertainers and was known as the “Waldorf of Harlem.” Built between 1912-1913, it began to hire and host African Americans in 1940, attracting legendary singers like Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne, and Eartha Kitt, who could perform at the Waldorf Astoria, but were not allowed to stay there nor enter through the main entrance. Today, the hotel serves as an office building.
This popular Harlem bar was a performance hub for jazz artists and significant African American figures. It hosted some of the greatest jazz artists like Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, and attracted famous patrons who would frequently stop by the bar, including Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. The lounge closed in 2012 and the building was demolished in 2017.
The creator of The Negro Motorist Green Book, Victor Hugo Green, originally ran the advertising office for his famous guide out of this apartment. At the time, Green worked as a postman in New Jersey while living in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem with his wife and collaborator, Alma Green. The Greens ran their business out of this apartment until 1942, when they moved into an office on 135th Street.
In the 1940s, this venue was named The Paradise Theater and was a top venue for African American performers. Originally built in 1919 to house the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, when the hall was turned into the Paradise it attracted jazz greats Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, as well as comedians like Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx. Today, the building is called the Detroit Orchestra Hall, but the Paradise Theater legacy is preserved through the “Paradise Jazz Series."
Known for its high-end accommodations, the Carlton catered to a well-off African American clientele, particularly those in the music industry. Singer and actress Della Reese worked as a telephone operator here when she was discovered by an associate of famed music executive Berry Gordy. In the 1970s, the city of Detroit took ownership of the building and sold it to a developer who turned this important piece of Black history into loft-style condominiums in 2005.
A powerful reminder of segregation, this wall literally divided Black and white residents in the same neighborhood. Located on the west side of Detroit, it was built in 1941 by developers who were discouraged by the banks to integrate housing in neighborhoods across the U.S., a practice known as “redlining.” The wall created limited access between the two neighborhoods. Today, a short stretch of the wall is decorated with murals and can be seen in the Alfonso Wells Memorial Playground.
This area is one of the few historic vacation communities in the U.S. that caters specifically to upper-class African Americans. Established in 1912, with over 2,700 acres of wilderness, Idlewild was known as the “Black Eden” and served as an escape from city and work life in western Michigan. For upper-class African Americans during the Green Book era, Idlewild represented the fulfillment of the American dream that they had been and were being denied in the larger society.
Under Jim Crow laws, Centennial Park and its public pool were closed off to Black Americans, making it an important site of confrontation during the civil rights era. It wasn’t until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that African Americans were permitted to use it. Today, the 132-acre park is well known for the full-size replica of the Greek Parthenon that was built on the grounds in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
This is a popular traditional soul food restaurant that serves delicious food for a good cause. Opened in 2016 by the Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church, the café provides job training and employs formerly incarcerated men and women, offering them work experiences and helping them create second chances and improved lives.
Best known as the site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically assassinated, the Lorraine Motel originally operated as an upscale hotel for African American travelers. It is now a civil rights museum. After the assassination, the motel reduced operations and went through foreclosure. In 1991, thanks to preservation efforts, the Lorraine was transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum. It houses the world’s largest collection of archives on civil rights history in the U.S.
The area surrounding this park was once one of the largest economically independent Black districts in all of Mississippi. It was so culturally vibrant that it was dubbed “Little Harlem.” The businesses along this street were built for and patronized by the Black community. According to Tony Dennis, a third-generation shoe repair shop owner still in operation on Farish Street, “If you went to Jackson and you didn’t go to Farish Street, then you didn’t go to Jackson. You went somewhere else.”
Also known as Big John’s, this shop is famous for its pig ear sandwiches. Original owner, Juan Mora, pioneered the sandwich made of tenderized pig ear boiled for two days. Medgar Evers once had an office directly above the restaurant, and blues singer Sonny Boy Williamson lived in an apartment upstairs, as well. The restaurant has been visited by President Barack Obama and featured on the late Anthony Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown.” Today, Big Apple is run by Mora’s great-grandson, Geno Lee.
This theatre was a hub for movies, blues music, and dancing, hosting artists such as Nat King Cole and Cab Calloway and attracting patrons by the busload. You can spot the Alamo Theater by the beautifully restored Art Deco marquee outside. The theater was restored in 1997 and has been made a part of the Mississippi Blues Trail—a collection of historical markers meant to preserve the history of blues music.
The hotel that stood here was one of two African American-owned hotels that catered to Black Americans. It was famous for its late-night basement blues shows. In 1966, the Subway Lounge opened in the basement and was run by Jimmy King, a local musician and high school band director. Sadly, the lounge hosted its last performance in 2003, and it was demolished in 2004. All that remains is the foundation and a historical marker near the entrance to the Dr. Robert Smith Parkway.
This was one of two African American-owned hotels in Jackson that catered to Black Americans. It was a popular place to stay among famous entertainers and notable civil rights leaders. According to Frank Figgers, a local activist in Jackson, when big musical acts came to town, they stayed here. Figgers has fond memories: “We went over to the Edward Lee Hotel to get these stars’ autographs and we sat around with those stars!” The site today is an empty lot.
This historically Black university was established to provide education for formerly enslaved people. It was established in 1869 by Christian missionaries on a former plantation site that was originally considered to be just outside of Jackson but has now been incorporated into the broader Jackson city limits. The campus includes a historic district with 10 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This hotel was at the center of Birmingham's civil rights movement, serving as headquarters for its leaders. Founder A.G. Gaston built this intimate yet luxurious motel because he believed that Black people had a right to first-class accommodations as they traveled through the segregated South. According to Denise Gilmore, the Birmingham Director of Cultural Preservation, “Anybody who was anybody traveling through the segregated South would have stayed at the Gaston Motel."
This historically Black church is the site of the infamous KKK bombing that killed four young girls on Sept. 15, 1963. The bombing killed Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, and many others were injured. In 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded all four girls the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, local tours are offered five days a week, covering how the church was built, its connection to other churches, and details of the infamous bombing.
Once an epicenter for civil rights actions in the 1960s, Kelly Ingram Park now contains sculptures memorializing the protestors. One famous sculpture is dedicated to the “foot soldiers” of the Birmingham civil rights movement and depicts the infamous image of a young boy being attacked by a police dog. During the civil rights era, several groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), would stage rallies and demonstrations here.