2017-06-16 / On Second Thought

Travel On: The Green Book and South Carolina’s African American Cultural Sites

By Lois Carlisle, Historic Columbia


Mann-Simons Site Mann-Simons Site The 1950s were a golden age for automobile travel across America. Cars were finally spacious ( and cheap) enough to comfortably carry families for hundreds of miles. Complicated road networks began to emerge, connecting all parts of the country to all other parts. For the first time with ease, families could travel from Charleston to San Francisco at their own pace, in the luxurious comfort of their private automobiles.

However, this freedom of mobility was not available to everyone. The 1950s still saw Jim Crow laws on the books. Racial segregation was enforced by law.

Racial tension—like the newly paved highway systems—crisscrossed the United States.

This made travel difficult for African Americans. Often families would drive all night instead of trying to find lodging in unfamiliar towns. They were regularly turned away from restaurants, and instead, ate picnic lunches on the road. There are accounts of families who carried portable toilets crosscountry because African Americans were not permitted to use highway rest stops.

Things changed, however, in 1936 when a man named Victor Hugo Green created a travel guide meant to make life on the road safer and more enjoyable for African American motorists.

The guide provided a state-by-state outline of restaurants, hotels, service stations, and other establishments that would welcome African American travelers. It became known as The Green Book. The Green Book aided African Americans in their travels until its final publication in 1966.

This spring, the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission re-launched The Green Book as a mobile app and website called the Green Book of South Carolina. It is the first mobile travel guide to African American cultural sites across South Carolina. This resources offers local residents and visitors from around the world a user-friendly guide to dis- covering and celebrating enriching cultural experiences across the state of South Carolina.

Among the 300 sites available on the app are two sites managed by Historic Columbia—the newly reinterpreted Mann- Simons Site, which takes guests on a journey through the challenges, adversity, and perseverance of one African American family who lived on the downtown property for nearly 130 years, and the Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, a one-story Columbia Cottage and home to Modjeska Monteith Simkins, considered the matriarch of South Carolina’s Civil and Human Rights movement.

Find out more at GreenBookofSC.com and by downloading the app.

Return to top