Traveling with The Green Book in Mississippi: First stop, Queen City Hotel in Columbus

1939 Green Book

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. (1939). The Negro Motorist Green Book: 1939 Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/911d3420-83da-0132-687a-58d385a7b928

Victor H. Green, Editor and Publisher, introduced the Green Book in 1936 as a local publication for the New York City area.  “Motoring” for leisure was catching on, but Green, as an African American businessman from New York City, was well aware of the difficulties the black traveler encountered.

Probably the most consulted source of information for black travelers, the Negro Motorist Green-Book (later known as the Negro Traveler’s Green-Book) did not appear until 1936, but continued publication through 1967, when the achievements of the civil rights movement and desegregation rendered its information less compelling. (Armstead, M. B.  Y. 2005. Revisiting hotels and other lodgings: American tourist spaces through the lens of black pleasure-travelers, 1880-1950. The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 25. 136-159.)

Although initially intended as a local New York area publication, the response to the Green Book was so great, Green began efforts to cover the entire United States by 1937.  Mississippi listings first appeared with the 1939 edition, and that first listing was fairly skimpy.  Primarily listed were “tourist homes” which were private homes whose owner provided accommodations for the public.  Hotels were identified in only 6 towns in that 1939 edition.

Although first publicized nation-wide in 1939, Columbus, Mississippi’s Queen City Hotel on 15th Street and 7th Avenue had accommodated the African American traveler since it was constructed in 1909 and opened as a hotel in 1914 by Robert Walker (Queen City Hotel/Mississippi 10 Most Endangered, Queen City Hotel: Center of African American life in Columbus, Mississippi).  Also published in 1939 by the National Park Service, the Directory of Negro Hotels and Guest Houses in the United States  listed the Queen City Hotel, however, it identified only five total lodging options for Mississippi, in contrast to the Green Book.

The Mississippi Blues Trail reported Walker’s estate sold the property to Ed Bush in the 1940s, who demolished the original building and constructed a new two-story brick hotel in the location.  The New Queen City opened in 1948.

Although efforts were underway to preserve the Queen City as a cultural center, a storm in 2002 destroyed all but the front section of the building.  In spite of funding from the Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation Grant Fund and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History,  the owners demolished the last remains of the building in 2008.

So begins the series of travel through Mississippi, courtesy of Victor Green’s Green Book, 1939-1967.



Categories: African American History, Columbus, Historic Preservation, Hotels

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6 replies

  1. Have you heard the 99% invisible podcast on the Green Book? It’s definitely worth a listen, especially those intrigued by your post. :)

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  2. Thanks for the great reference, Kaitlin. The podcast on the Green Book can be located on the Articles page at http://99percentinvisible.org/episodes. It is a great listen, so ya’ll take a few minutes to find out how Victor Green was able to accomplish this ambitious project.

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  3. Now for something completely different: The Four Door Hotel

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  4. The Queen City Hotel is currently owned by my grandparents, Easter Mae and Johnny B. Weatherspoon. They were all for renovating and recreating the hotel (possibly turning it into a museum) but the city wanted to buy it from them and my grandmother refused to sell. She had promised Mrs. Bush that she would keep it in our family.The city then decided not to fund the project, and due to lack of funds, my grandparents had no choice but to demolish the building.

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