Tribute to sanctuaries of a bygone era: Call to recognize 'friendly' motels listed in iconic 'Green Book' for African-Americans during segregation as sites of historical significance

  • A string of motels in Los Angeles are listed in the iconic Green Book guide
  • It was used by African American travelers during segregation in the south
  • Campaigners say the motels should be recognized for their roles in history
  • City officials have agreed to add them to the city's online inventory system

Campaigners are hoping to save a string of motels across Los Angeles after they were identified as safe havens for African American travellers during segregation.

The sites were documented in 'The Negro Motorist Green Book' - an annual travellers' guide which identified sites along the famous Route 66 that welcomed black drivers.

It was published every year between 1936 and 1966, at a time when racial segregation remained across the southern U.S. and many faced violence at the hands of whites.

The Hayes Motel, located south of Los Angeles, is pictured in a vintage photo taken during Jim Crow America, when it was one of the city's few places that was welcoming of African American travelers

The Hayes Motel, located south of Los Angeles, is pictured in a vintage photo taken during Jim Crow America, when it was one of the city's few places that was welcoming of African American travelers

The motel (pictured today) was listed in The Green Book, a travel guide for African American motorists who often had difficulty finding accommodation that would accept them in the 1940s, 50s and 60s

The motel (pictured today) was listed in The Green Book, a travel guide for African American motorists who often had difficulty finding accommodation that would accept them in the 1940s, 50s and 60s

Andre Henderson, 28, sweeps up around the Hayes Motel. It has stood for nearly 40 years and campaigners now hope it will be recognized for its role in helping  travelers during segregation

Andre Henderson, 28, sweeps up around the Hayes Motel. It has stood for nearly 40 years and campaigners now hope it will be recognized for its role in helping travelers during segregation

Lily Ho, 78, now owns the Hayes Motel in Los Angeles. She bought it from the previous owners and has owned it for 40 years

Lily Ho, 78, now owns the Hayes Motel in Los Angeles. She bought it from the previous owners and has owned it for 40 years

Now the history of these buildings has been acknowledged by city officials keen to enshrine the role they played in the country's civil rights battle.

One such establishment is the Hayes Motel. Built in 1947 just south of LA, today it appears dilapidated and is located in a poverty-stricken area, the LA Times reported.

Candacy Taylor, a Green Book expert, told the paper the motel had now become something of a heartbreaking paradox.

She said: 'Many Green Book sites once regarded as safe havens for African Americans are now clustered in poverty-stricken neighborhoods where African American lives are at risk.

'Unless something is done soon, the Green Book’s trove of surviving properties will be lost due to gentrification and neglect.'

Fortunately, Ken Bernstein, a planner for LA's Department of City Planning in its historic resources office, has said he will acknowledge their history.

'At the very least, these sites can be incorporated into our city's online inventory system.

'They are part of the story of African Americans in Los Angeles, and the story of Los Angeles itself writ large.'

Among the city's other 223 sites listed in the Green Book are barbershops, taverns and beauty salons.

The growth in popularity of the book coincided with a burgeoning African American middle class, many of whom could afford their own vehicles and were eager to escape persecution on public transport.

There is also a raft of other accommodation suppliers still standing in the city, including the Dunbar Hotel, the Lincoln Hotel, the New Astor Motel and the Mayfair Hotel in downtown LA.

Pictured is the Mayfair Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles. The huge imposing building welcomed African American customers during prior to the civil rights successes of the 1960s

Pictured is the Mayfair Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles. The huge imposing building welcomed African American customers during prior to the civil rights successes of the 1960s

Another Los Angeles building listed in the Green Book was the New Aster Motel, in South Central LA

Another Los Angeles building listed in the Green Book was the New Aster Motel, in South Central LA

A man sits on the steps of the Lincoln Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles. Campaigners hope to save as many of these buildings as possible given their significance to the country's social history

A man sits on the steps of the Lincoln Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles. Campaigners hope to save as many of these buildings as possible given their significance to the country's social history

Also included in the Green Book was the Dunbar Hotel (pictured), in south Los Angeles

Also included in the Green Book was the Dunbar Hotel (pictured), in south Los Angeles

THE GREEN BOOK: A RESOURCE FOR DRIVERS IN JIM CROW AMERICA

The 'Negro Motorist Green Book' was first published by New Yorker Victor H. Green in 1933.

Initial editions were restricted to the city of New York itself, but was soon expanded to accommodate African American travelers driving across the burgeoning U.S. highway system.

It was published towards the end of Jim Crow-era America, when they remained segregated at places such as hotels and African American travelers were still a target of violence.

Using sources from the U.S. Postal Service - which at the time was a major employer of African Americans - he was able to source locations and businesses that were welcoming.

Mr Green hoped the book would assist African American travelers with enjoying trouble-free holidays if they chose to drive cross country.

He later described it as a resource to help to answer the one major problem facing African American drivers - 'where will you spend the night?'

In the 1950s, despite segregation laws, the wide circulation of the Green Book meant many white business owners saw profits in opening their businesses to everyone, rather than just whites.

Its final editions arrived as the Civil Rights movement knocked down barriers stopping African Americans moving freely without discrimination.

By this stage it listed locations abroad in Mexico, Canada and Bermuda. 

The Green Book 1940 edition
The Green Book 1960 edition

The Green Book was a guide to motels and other businesses that were welcoming of African American customers during segregation in the U.S. Pictured left is the 1940 edition, while right is its 1960 publication

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