The film “Green-Book” is up for five Oscars this Sunday. The movie’s title is in reference to a travel guide used by African Americans during segregation to safely navigate the country. The “Green-Book” included a number of locations right here in Connecticut.
Jim Crow laws evoke painful memories of segregation in the deep south, but Jim Crow extended well beyond the Mason-Dixon line. As a matter of law, Jim Crow severely limited where blacks could go eat, the motels they could sleep in, and even restricted which hospitals blacks could seek emergency care.
It led Victor Green to publish the “Green-Book” for black travelers seeking to avoid the indignities of segregation by purchasing their own cars.
“Blacks just didn’t think about driving and going to a hotel. That was not good planning,” said Dr. Fred McKinney, of Quinnipiac University. Now the subject of a popular Hollywood movie, it is a script McKinney knows well.
He was born in Arkansas in 1954 during the height of Jim Crow. Two years later, his family moved him to Washington, D.C., which meant yearly summer trips back to Arkansas, a two-day trek by car.
“It was one of those things where you didn’t want to be on the road at night and lost,” McKinney said.
To ensure they wouldn’t be refused service, or worse, face violence, his father plotted every mile of their trips.
“Through the 1950’s, 60’s, and even into the early 70’s, it was not uncommon, particularly in a place like New Haven. There were hotels and in those black communities, in those hotels, that’s a place where blacks stayed,” McKinney explained.
Yes, even Connecticut had businesses and private homes friendly to black travelers listed in the “Green-Book”, including the legendary Three Judges Motor Lodge in New Haven.
“It’s interesting how historic this actual facility is,” said state NAACP leader Scot X. Esdaile.
We caught up with Esdaile outside Three Judges, where decades earlier, he celebrated his high school prom.
“The late, great Harriet Tubman talked about how anything below Canada is the south and it was very, very racist all throughout America. Not just in the deep south, but in the north also. It was very dangerous for blacks to travel,” Esdaile recounted.
Also in New Haven you could find Hotel Garde, Taft and Adams Hotel and Hotel Duncan in the “Green-Book.”
Up the road in New London, The Lighthouse is listed.
“Most people feel like if you’ve got a credit card and you’ve got cash in your pocket then, you can go anywhere you want in this country, but that was not the reality for most blacks,” said McKinney.