It all began with the New York Public Library's announcement in 2016 that it had digitized all of The Green Book guides in its collection.

In the summer of 2016, Anne Bruder, Susan Hellman, and Catherine Zipf formed a research group that sought to find out what had happened to the Green Book’s buildings in their states (MD, VA, and RI respectively). After a presentation at a Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians conference, the three were inundated by a host of other scholars wanting to learn more about sites in their states. With the help of these scholars, the project has evolved into an effort to document the history and status of every building listed in The Negro Traveler’s Green Book. This website is dedicated to that effort.

This project reveals the overlooked history of mid-twentieth century African Americans: the women who ran tourist homes because their husbands could not get jobs that paid well enough to support their families, the men who saw opportunity and opened motels based on the amount of traffic passing through their towns, and the businessman who financed those who offered beauty, entertainment, and style to middle class African Americans. These unsung people were the backbone of the African American tourist industry.

The buildings reflect this history. Some document the succeeding eras of ownership by whites and then African Americans, while others were purpose-built by African American owners as they seized opportunities for new economic growth. Many buildings in formerly bustling downtown areas have fallen on hard times, suffer from lack of owner maintenance, or have been demolished, with poverty and neglect leaving only remnants of once vibrant places. Others have survived. Some have even thrived. All speak to an important legacy of survival in the American landscape.

A Word about Terminology: The Negro Traveler’s Green Book is an artifact of a specific time and place – the United States in the mid-twentieth century, when segregation was the law of the land. At that time, “Negro” was the commonly used word to describe Americans of African descent. It was adopted by African Americans instead of “Colored,” although both words were used interchangeably by both whites and African Americans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The term “Black” came into use in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We use “Negro” if it appears in a title or a quote, but otherwise refer to people associated with The Green Book as African American.


The Research Team:
Anne E. Bruder, Architectural Historian, Baltimore, Maryland

Susan Hellman, Architectural Historian, Alexandria, Virginia

Olivia Pettie, Research Assistant, University of Virginia

Melanie York, Research Assistant, University of Virginia

Catherine W. Zipf, Architectural Historian, Bristol, Rhode Island


With the assistance of:

Arkansas: Ralph Wilcox

New Jersey: Janet Sheridan, Janet Foster, Jenny Shaffer, etc.

South Dakota: Liz Almlie