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University of Virginia alums are documenting Green Books

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 8:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A few familiar places in and around Charlottesville have historic roots.

Three University of Virginia alums are now digging into how these staples in Charlottesville functioned years ago and the ways they impacted Black people.

Catherine Ziph, Susan Hellman, and Anne Bruder are the architectural historians on the project, mapping out safe havens for Blacks during the 60s.

“The people that were listing their houses in the Green Books were extraordinarily brave,” Ziph said.

During the segregation era, Green Books were travel guides used by African Americans, published from 1936 to 1967.

Ziph says it’s difficult to find a copy of a green book, comparing the rarity to a phone book.

To help preserve this history, the three partnered together in mapping Green Book listings from Virginia, Maryland, and Rhode Island.

“I created a website. It’s basically a Google map with all these sites and I’ve been crowdsourcing from that,” Hellman said.

This website is a digital log of places in Virginia that were published in the Green Books creating widespread and long-lasting access.

“People are making trips, visiting their friends, enjoying time away for vacation, yet this is (during) segregation,” Bruder said.

These listings showed Black people where they could lodge, dine, and even get a haircut without fear of discrimination.

Hellman mapped roughly 315 locations in Virginia, many of which are in Charlottesville.

The Paramount Theatre, Jokers Barber Shop, and the Virginia Inn each showed Blacks’ fair treatment despite the racial divide of the times.

Their goal is to educate others through their research. They are working to broaden the database to other states.

Click here for contact information if you are interested in helping with the process.

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