INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Researchers in Indiana are looking for locations listed in a book that helped Black travelers coming through Indiana in parts of the 20th century.
“The Green Book” was a traveler’s guide published for Black people from the 1930s to the 1960s. It listed locations that were safe for Black people to stay, eat, and have fun.
Historians are racing to track down Indiana’s locations and record the stories behind them. Over three decades of circulation, nearly 200 places in Indiana were listed in “The Green Book.”
Many of those places are no longer standing and are lost to history, so the Indiana Department of Natural Resource Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology is leading efforts to find the remaining locations in Indiana.
America was a difficult place for Black and African-Americans when Sandra Branch was growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. But, at the time, she didn’t know just how difficult. She says her parents tried to keep much of it from her.
For Branch, family road trips back down south from Indiana would start bright and early. There was no stopping for food or to use the restroom.
“Actually, for me that’s all I knew. My mom would fried chicken she’d boil eggs, a sheet of bread, and snacks,” Branch said. “That was what we traveled with and that was just the way it was.”
Her story of traveling while Black isn’t just her own; it’s the story of countless others, many of whom utilized “The Green Book” to find safe places to stop while traveling.
And safety was key. At that time, where you stopped mattered, according to Jeannie Regan-Dinius, director of special initiatives with the DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
“African-Americans traveling across the country couldn’t stay in the hotels, couldn’t get gas at certain gas stations,” Regan-Dinius said.
Regan-Dinius and Maddi Hellmich are working to track down those safe places to stop in Indiana.
“The photos here are at Fox Lake Resort and this was in northern Indiana, outside of Angola,” Hellmich said, gesturing to some black-and-white photographs. “This was am African-American resort that people from around the state, and from the Midwest, would visit in the summer.”
Indianapolis had a number of locations in “The Green Book” between the 1930s and ’60s, including hotels, restaurants, and hair salons. Many of them were located along Indiana and Senate Avenues.
“With ‘The Green Book’ project, my favorite part has been finding out who these business owners were,” Hellmich said.
Hellmich and Regan-Dinius say they hope to get one of the buildings that is still standing listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the buildings are gone. They’ve been demolished for a variety of reasons and the only way we know about them is through ‘The Green Book,’” Regan-Dinius said.
The Indiana Natural Resources hopes to start heading out in the spring and summer to visit some of the locations from “The Green Book.” But, in the meantime, the department is asking that you check your attics for the book and look into your family history. Your information could help people hold onto a special part of history.