Relive History at Green Book Legacy Sites in North Carolina

First published as The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor H. Green in 1936, what came to be known simply as Green Book was a directory of hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other establishments that African Americans could patronize safely during segregation. Over the years, more than 300 North Carolina businesses appeared in Green Book, some still standing – and a few still open – today. The North Carolina African American Heritage Commission’s Green Book Project documents and celebrates these businesses, the heart and soul of our state’s African American community. Relive history at actual Green Book sites and visit other places rich in this culture.

1 The Historic Magnolia House

1 The Historic Magnolia House

Original Green Book site in GreensboroSee on mapSee on map

Established in 1949, the Magnolia House Motel housed families visiting students at nearby historically black colleges, as well as famous African Americans like Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Jackie Robinson and James Baldwin. Six Green Book editions listed it as a highly recommended place to stay. Restorations finished in 2012 revived the Victorian building, which now hosts Wednesday and Thursday night suppers (think fish and grits), a Sunday jazz brunch, and events like concerts and yoga classes set to live jazz.

2 International Civil Rights Center and Museum

2 International Civil Rights Center and Museum

GreensboroSee on mapSee on map

Housed in the Woolworth’s building that sparked a desegregation sit-in movement by four North Carolina A&T State University students in 1960, the museum offers exhibits and artifacts dedicated to civil rights. The year 2020 marks the museum’s 10th anniversary along with the 60th anniversary of the sit-in.

3 Speight's Auto Service Center

3 Speight's Auto Service Center

Original Green Book site in DurhamSee on mapSee on map

Opened in 1938, Speight’s gave black motorists a place to stop for gas, oil and repairs. Forced to move for a freeway in the 1960s, it was one of the few businesses displaced by urban renewal that reopened. Speight’s still works on cars and displays memorabilia from the shop’s history.

4 Pauli Murray House

Courtesy of: Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice

4 Pauli Murray House

DurhamSee on mapSee on map

As an African American and women’s rights activist, lawyer, and the first female African American Episcopal priest and saint, Pauli Murray played an integral yet often overlooked role in the most significant movements of the 20th century. Murray spent her childhood years in Durham, where her family home was recently named a National Historic Landmark. The house is being turned into a center for history and social justice.

5 Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture

5 Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture

CharlotteSee on mapSee on map

The 46,500-square-foot venue celebrates the art, history, and culture of African Americans and other people of the African diaspora through visual and literary arts, dance, music, film, educational programs, stage productions, and community outreach.

6 St. Philips Heritage Center

6 St. Philips Heritage Center

Winston-SalemSee on mapSee on map

The center, which is part of the Old Salem Museums and Gardens complex, interprets the historic town of Salem. Established by the Moravians in 1766, Salem was home to many enslaved and free people of African descent. The center includes a rebuilt 1823 log church and the 1861 St. Philips Moravian Church, which is still in use today.

7 The Block

7 The Block

Asheville

Asheville’s hub of African American enterprise in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was called The Block. It included restaurants, doctor’s offices, a library and a boarding house. Today, tour company Hood Huggers International offers visits to key sites and long-standing African American-owned businesses such as Benne on Eagle, dishing soul food and history.

 

8 Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Museum

8 Historic Jarvisburg Colored School Museum

JarvisburgSee on mapSee on map

From 1868 until the 1950s, the school was one of few in the county to educate African American children. Today, the living-history museum features exhibits with testimonies from former students. Tours are available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

9 Thomas Day House and Union Tavern

9 Thomas Day House and Union Tavern

MiltonSee on mapSee on map

African American furniture maker and cabinetmaker Thomas Day ran our state’s most productive shop in the mid-19th century. His feats are recalled at this venue, now getting a new look that will feature some of Day’s actual furniture pieces.

Most of the North Carolina sites once listed in Green Book have disappeared into history, but you can see many of the businesses in their heyday, thanks to an online image archive. Discover more historically rich attractions in The Official 2020 North Carolina Travel Guide.

Updated February 14, 2020
About the Author
Shayla Martin

Shayla Martin

Shayla Martin is a Durham-based travel and food writer. She has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fodors Travel and more.

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