Tulsa's link to The Green Book, a travel guide for blacks through a segregated America
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
There was a time when traveling black Americans rarely felt the freedom of the open road.
"There wasn’t very many place for blacks to stop at night or in the daytime," said 82-year-old Tulsa resident, Richard McCondichie.
McCondichie remembers seeing america in the 1940s and '50s from the back seat of his parents' car.
"We obeyed the rules and regulations that was set out for us, here you can and can’t go," said McCondichie. "The water foundations, the restrooms and things of that nature.”
Black Americans routinely were refused service, and driving long distance without knowing the hazards was dangerous.
"We’re talking about the era of discrimination and segregation," said Mechelle Brown, program coordinator for the Greenwood Cultural Center, "They were all too aware of 'sundown towns'. Those were places where you wouldn’t want to be after sundown.”
Victor Green, a New York city mailman, created a travel guide called The Negro Motorist Green Book. It listed places across the country that would not turn away blacks.
"My uncle and grandparents knew where to stop when we would travel because they had 'the book', and they just called it 'the book'," said Tulsa resident Laura Peeples.
Peeples knew The Green Book existed but never had a chance to look at it until now. The pages filled with history are linked right here to Green Country.
“I recognize the Small Hotel, it was one of the nicer hotels we had," said Peeples.
Tulsa was actually a trusted go-to place for black travelers, largely because of the city’s Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street. There were hotels, restaurants, drug stores and gas stations.
"Greenwood was what was happening from Archer to Pine," said McCondichie. "All day long, seven days a week.”
"Anything you can imagine wanting or needing they had here on Greenwood," said Brown. "So, it was a great travel destination for African Americans.”
It thrived for years, yet with time many of the black-owned businesses left, but the history remains.
"It’s real interesting to know that we were apart of it back in those days," said Tulsa resident Darrell Walker.
With the help of The Green Book, black families like McCondiche’s and Peeples’ navigated segregated America. For a generation of travelers, the comfort it gave was priceless, and while The Green Book is no longer a "must-have" travel guide, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.
"It’s an important of our nation’s history, this isn’t just Oklahoma's history," said Brown. "It’s very important that we realize what we’ve been through in order to get where we are today.”