Virginia View Establishments by Virginia Cities

Virginia: Traveling Safely in the Old Dominion

Due to its centralized location along the mid-Atlantic coast, the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained a major presence in The Green Book from 1938 to 1967. Virginia was a destination and a point of departure, as well as a place to pass through when traveling between northern and southern states. African Americans constantly moved through Virginia over time, but had to carefully plan their routes in advance. The Green Book filled a much-needed void by providing a trusted guidebook to ensure safe travels while allowing for the continued ability to experience the landscape.

Prior to The Green Book, African Americans relied on word-of-mouth and on newspapers such as The Richmond Planet and The Norfolk Journal and Guide for travel recommendations. Out-of-state newspapers included vacation sections with advertisements for places to visit in Virginia. Likewise, Virginia papers also advertised sites outside the commonwealth.

From the beaches of the Tidewater area to the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia offered something for everyone. As a result, Virginia’s listings included multiple recreational and cultural amenities, such as campgrounds in the Blue Ridge Mountains and beach resorts along the shore. Fifty-six of Virginia’s cities had listings in The Green Book between 1938 and 1967, amounting to over 300 sites. Of these, the largest percentage provided lodging for travelers in tourist homes, hotels, motels, and inns. Additional amenities included restaurants, gas stations or garages, barber or beauty shops, taverns, pharmacies and drug stores, night clubs and dance halls, and a handful of theaters, florists, tailors, drive-ins, taxis, YMCAs and YWCAs, plus a country club, and a funeral home. Sadly, less than a third of these sites remain today.

In addition to being a travel destination for African Americans, Virginia also played a significant role in Black history. The first ship to bring Africans into the American colonies landed at Point Comfort, present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, in 1619. Although these twenty individuals labored as indentured servants, historians consider this event to be the beginning of slavery in the United States. This area, the Tidewater, had more Green Book listings than any other part of Virginia.

Three centuries later, in 1944, Irene Morgan was traveling home to Baltimore on a Greyhound bus after visiting her mother in Gloucester County, VA. The bus driver told her to move to accommodate a white passenger. Morgan, who had recently suffered a miscarriage and was not feeling well, refused. Police removed her from the bus in Saluda, VA, arrested, and jailed her. The case, Irene Morgan vs. Commonwealth of Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 7-1 that Virginia's state law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall served as Ms. Morgan’s co-counsel in that case.