Navigating Jim Crow: Green Book and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina

The Navigating Jim Crow: Green Book and Oasis Spaces exhibit features eight different panels that include history about the book, and a brief video.

Navigating Jim Crow: Green Book and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina
January 20
07:15 2022

At the height of the Jim Crow era, when Black people could lose their lives for leaving their neighborhoods, a guide called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” provided Black motorists across the country with a list of establishments that didn’t discriminate. The guide included restaurants, hotels, gas stations, drug stores, barbershops, bars and more, even addresses and names for people who would open their homes to those in need.

Thanks to North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, and the Winston-Salem Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., locals have the opportunity to learn more about the Green Book and the impact it had right here in Forsyth County, with an exhibit called “Navigating Jim Crow: Green Book and Oasis Spaces in North Carolina.”

During the opening ceremony for the exhibit held last week, Rev. Lonnie Pittman, senior pastor of Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, said it’s important to remember history like the Green Book for those who think those times are behind us. Pittman said growing up in Alabama, he heard about the division and racism in the South, but says he was “sheltered from it” until one day in the ‘90s, while stopped at a light in Pensacola. Pittman said he looked to his right and saw members of the KKK handing out flyers.

“These cowards were hiding their faces and spewing hate. I thought it was all over, at least we were in a much better place, but yet there was that reminder that it is still alive and well,” Pittman continued. 

“The reason I tell that story is because I was sheltered from it, I didn’t fully understand, and then I saw it right there in that moment … and so we need to tell these stories. We need to remember things like the Green Book to remind us of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go.” 

Assistant Pastor Rev. Bob Richardson encouraged the community to visit the exhibit and let others know about it as well. “We invite you to bring family and friends to see this very, very important exhibit because these are matters about which we should all be apprised.” 

The Green Book, which was the brainchild of Victor H. Green, was first published in 1936. Green, a native of Harlem, worked for the postal service and was a travel writer. For 30 years the annual guide helped thousands avoid unwarranted run-ins. In the beginning Green enlisted other postmen to contact Black entrepreneurs along their routes and invite them to list in the book, as well as sell the book to travelers for about 25 cents. 

Dr. Virginia Newell, 104, one of the first Black women to be elected to the Winston-Salem Board of Alderman (now City Council), said she didn’t really know about the Green Book growing up because she had five brothers and really didn’t have to worry about driving much. But she said she did know there was something that told Black people on the road where they could and could not go. 

“Let me put it this way … I knew there was something that explained to Black people when they would drive that they had to be careful,” Newell said. 

The exhibit will be on display at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, 3543 Robinhood Road, on Jan. 22, Feb. 6, and Feb. 20 from 1-4 p.m. The self-guided exhibit includes several different copies of the Green Book, eight different panels that include history about the book, and a brief video. The exhibit also includes a list of 18 different establishments that were located right here in Forsyth County, including the Belmont Hotel, the Lincoln Hotel, and College Service Station, which was located on Claremont Ave. 

For more information about the exhibit, visit 


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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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