Green Book legislation passes Virginia House

Decades before people could rely on the Internet for hotel or restaurant proposal, black Americans traveling across the country during the Jim Crow era relied on a guidebook of amenities to stay safe in segregated parts of the country.

Now, Virginia lawmakers are considering allowing travelers to explore the routes and sites found within Green book after the House of Delegates on Tuesday passed legislation to allow the placement of historical markers at those sites.

Share. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, Patron of House bill 1968said he was “very hopeful that when we get to the Senate, we’ll have partners over there who are as excited about this idea as we are, and I think we’ll see bipartisan support over there as well.” “

Martin Brown, Virginia’s chief diversity officer and director of the state’s Office of Diversity, Opportunity and Inclusion, said Gov. Glenn Youngkin supports the bill. Brown said Youngkin believes it is “consistent with promoting all history” and “recognizes the disparities that occurred, but also celebrates the consistent overcoming efforts of African Americans.”

Victor Hugo Green, a postman from New York, published the Green Book annually from 1936 to 1966, a time when local and state Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation.

The signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 legally ended the segregation these laws had established. However, black people continued to face discrimination from hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as legal restrictions aimed at preventing minorities from seeking work, voting, and renting and selling housing.

During this time, the Green Book noted places throughout the United States where black travelers could safely eat, stay, and fill their cars with gas.

According to Mullin, Virginia has about 315 known sites that were part of the guidebook, including 60 that already have markers.

Susan Hellman, a planner for the city of Alexandria’s historic preservation office, told the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee that she has been document Green Book sites along with other historians over the past seven years. She said about a quarter of the properties in Virginia remain.

Recently, public interest in the guidebook has grown, especially after the release of the Hollywood film “Green Book,” which chronicled the journey of world-class African-American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver during a concert tour through the Deep South in 1962.

Last session, lawmakers passed legislation carried by Mullin directing the Department of Historic Resources to develop a program to identify, publicize and educate the public about Green Book sites in the Commonwealth. Mullin said the idea grew out of conversations with Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, who shared stories with him about traveled between Washington DC and North Carolina with family when she was younger.

In one instance, Ward said her family rarely drank anything at all to avoid using the bathroom out of fear.

“The Green Book was so important because you knew where you could eat and where you would be lynched,” Ward said.

She added: “I just knew that was the way things worked but the green book was a bible and you learn that as a black person traveling you can’t go anywhere without the green book. “

Virginia Department of Transportation Integrated directional signing program would primarily cover the cost of the markers. Localities that maintain their own highways will be required to place and maintain the Green Book signs for those locations within their boundaries.

Mullin has proposed a budget amendment that would give the Virginia Tourism Authority and the Department of Historic Resources $50,000 to carry out legislation to designate or approve signs for historic Green Book sites. He said Tuesday that the amount is a placeholder.

Another budget change would give the Virginia Tourism Authority and the Department of Historic Resources $97,000 in 2024 to conduct a study describing Green Book sites in Virginia.

The purpose of the study would be to expedite and simplify the listing of these properties in the Virginia Landmarks Register, a designation that would make them eligible for certain funds and highway markers.

The legislation will now be sent to the Democratic-controlled Senate for consideration.


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