INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana researchers are looking for places listed in a book that helped black travelers cross Indiana in parts of the 20th century.
“The Green Book” was a traveler’s guide published for black people from the 1930s through the 1960s. It lists places where black people can safely stay, eat and play.
Historians race to track down Indiana locations and record the stories behind them. In three decades of circulation, nearly 200 Indiana locations have been listed in “The Green Book.”
Many of these locations no longer stand and are lost to history, so the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology is leading efforts to find the remaining locations in the Indiana.
America was a tough place for blacks and African Americans when Sandra Branch was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. But, back then, she didn’t realize how tough it was. She says her parents tried to hide a lot of it from her.
For Branch, family trips to southern Indiana would start early and early. There was no stopping to eat or to use the restroom.
“Actually, for me, that’s all I knew. My mom made fried chicken, she boiled eggs, a sheet of bread and snacks,” Branch said. “That’s what we traveled with and that was how it was.”
Her travel story while Black isn’t just her own; it’s the story of countless others, many of whom have used ‘The Green Book’ to find safe places to stop on their journey.
And safety was key. Back then, it mattered where you stopped, according to Jeannie Regan-Dinius, director of special initiatives in MNR’s Historic Preservation and Archeology Division.
“African Americans traveling across the country couldn’t stay in hotels, couldn’t get gas at certain gas stations,” Regan-Dinius said.
Regan-Dinius and Maddi Hellmich are working on finding these safe places to stop in Indiana.
“The photos here are at Fox Lake Resort and it was in northern Indiana, outside of Angola,” Hellmich said, pointing to black and white photographs. “It was an African American resort that people from across the state and the Midwest visited in the summer.”
Indianapolis had a number of locations in “The Green Book” between the 1930s and 1960s, including hotels, restaurants, and barbershops. Many of them were located along Indiana and Senate Avenues.
“With ‘The Green Book’ project, my favorite part was finding out who these business owners were,” Hellmich said.
Hellmich and Regan-Dinius say they hope to have one of the buildings still standing listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Unfortunately, many buildings have disappeared. They were demolished for various reasons and the only way we know of them is through the “Green Book”, Regan-Dinius said.
Indiana Natural Resources hopes to start going in the spring and summer to visit some of the locations in “The Green Book.” But, in the meantime, the department wants you to check your attics for the book and look into your family history. Your information could help people preserve a special part of history.