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Travelling During Jim Crow

As a kid growing up during Segregation, I attended a segregated elementary school. My parents were both teachers, and every summer meant an adventure travelling somewhere by car or train to one or the other location across the US. I got to see the Tetons, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and many of the great sights around the country as part of these trips. I recall my parents planning such trips, including stopovers at cities or towns along the way. We often stayed with relatives, if any were located in a town or city along the way, in a reciprocal agreement among family members.

Cruise Boat at Tappahannock Dock

The day of the trip, I remember my Mother always packing a cooler with drinks and food. In Virginia, along the old Rt 1, and a number of other Highways such as Rt 29 heading towards Charlottesville there were frequent pullovers with picnic tables and grills. Since the Restaurants were segregated, these provided places for black families to stop and picnic along the way, such as to avoid unknown towns where there may or may not have been facilities where they were allowed to eat. Travelling out of state, to except the big cities was an exercise in planning to find the “black community area” where there would be Motels and eateries for black folks. There were guides published by several enterprising outfits which listed black owned (and therefore safe) businesses in the various towns and cities. Headed south to my mother’s home, we always stopped in a certain town for gas or food. That town was Taphannock, Virginia – which at one point enjoyed a bustling black owned business environment supported in part by Casino Boats which plied the river.

So there were places to eat, stay, and the local gas station would sell you gas (for the most part).

I never saw a Green Book, but I saw several similar publications during that time. We never traveled South – so I have no idea how conditions were in the Southeast.

 

 

The forgotten way African Americans stayed safe in a racist America

For African American travelers, much of the U.S. could be a hateful and dangerous place, even into the 1960’s.

Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were  thousands of so-called “sundown towns,”including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.

So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.

The images below come from the New York Public Library, which recently digitized 21 volumes of the Green Book, from 1937 to 1964.

Jim Crow laws across the South mandated that restaurants, hotels, pool halls and parks strictly separate whites and blacks. Lynchings kept blacks in fear of mob violence. And there were thousands of so-called “sundown towns,” including in northern states like Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, which barred blacks after dark, an unofficial rule reinforced by the threat of violence.

So in 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green began publishing a guide to help African American travelers find friendly restaurants, auto shops and accommodations in far-off places. Green dubbed the guide after himself – the “Green Book” – and published it for decades. Green says he was inspired by the Jewish press, which had long published information on restricted places.

The images above come from the New York Public Library, which recently digitized 21 volumes of the Green Book, from 1937 to 1964.
The Green Book included listings for hotels, restaurants, gas stations, bars and beauty salons across the U.S., as well as travel articles, paid advertisements, and stories about local attractions. The guide first focused on New York, but was gradually expanded to cover the whole U.S. The first edition said on its cover, “Let’s all get together and make motoring better,” while the 1949 edition featured a quote from Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice.”

While poverty and discrimination kept many African Americans from owning cars, a new black middle class rose up in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and many of them were eager to escape poor treatment on public transportation.

Yet car ownership came with its own challenges. Many African Americans would pack meals, blankets and gasoline in their cars on trips in case they ended up somewhere where they wouldn’t be served or didn’t want to ask.

Green Books were sold at Esso service stations, one of the few gas station chains that served African Americans. The first edition retailed for a quarter, and Green soon upped the price to 75 cents.

Though the Green Book was a life-saving tool at the time, it’s also a vivid reminder of just how discrimination and prejudice made — and still make — the world much smaller and less free.

Though Green’s list was far from comprehensive, many states have only a handful of listings, and the guesthouses and motels featured in the photos look small and somewhat shabby today.

In the introduction to the 1949 edition, Green writes: “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published.”

“That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.”

The last edition, published in 1963, was an international edition which described itself as a guide to “vacation without aggravation.” Green died in 1960, and the book gradually lost some relevance after the creation of a national highway system in 1956, which meant travelers no longer ventured as much into cities and towns, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations…See More including interactive maps here

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2016 in Black History

 

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Black Folks Can’t Hike

White men can’t jump…Black folks can’t hike…

Some stereotypes just seem to happen.

Doing the single thing on those dating sites, and it seems the first thing every white woman puts in her bio is her love of running marathons and hiking through the wilderness. Black women…I don’t think so!

White women… “Ran a 10k last weekend and here are the pics!”

Black women … “Looking for a God fearing man”.

White women…” Here is me climbing El Capitan”.

Black women… “I am a God Fearing, loving,caring,honest and independent woman. ”

White Women – “I love all water sports, sailing and boating, as well as snow skiing and x country skiing.
Have an ocean kayak and a couple of small sail boats that are lots of fun.”

Black Women …”Please understand that If you are not interested in God, then I’m not interested in you! He is the apex of my life!”

White Women …”I love my Vespa scooter and jumping out of airplanes, tandem of course.”

Yeah…

 

White People Love Hiking. Minorities Don’t. Here’s Why.

White people simply love to spend their free time walking up and down mountains and sleeping in the forest. Search “hiking” in Google Images and see how far you have to scroll to find a nonwhite person. Ditto rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and so on. That white people love the outdoors is so widely accepted as fact that it’s become a running joke. The website Stuff White People Like has no less than three entries on the subject: “Making you feel bad about not going outside” (#9), “Outdoor Performance Clothes” (#87), and “Camping” (#128). The latter entry reads, “If you find yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, running water, or a car you would likely describe that situation as a ‘nightmare’ or ‘a worse case scenario like after plane crash or something.’ White people refer to it as ‘camping.'”

That quote is almost certainly how most blacks, Latinos, and other minorities view hiking and camping. The Outdoor Industry Association—the top outdoor-recreation lobby in America (and based in Boulder, naturally)—insists that outdoor enthusiasts “are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels,” but research by their own nonprofit organization, The Outdoor Foundation, shows underwhelming diversity. Its 2013 outdoor participation report notes that last year, 70 percent of participants were white. “As minority groups make up a larger share of the population and are predicted to become the majority by 2040, engaging diverse populations in outdoor recreation has never been more critical,” the report reads. “Unfortunately, minorities still lag behind in outdoor participation.”

In a front-page story today, The New York Times details these very problems facing the National Park Service—only one in five visitors to NPS sites are nonwhite, according to a 2011 study cited in the article—and the “multipronged effort to turn the Park Service’s demographic battleship around.” Clumsy metaphors aside, the article does a respectable job at detailing the various efforts—namely outreach, all-expenses-paid trips, and creating more national monuments recognizing minority figures in U.S. history—to increase minority participation. Less complete are the reasons the Times gives for that low participation.

Many white Americans who grew up going to the parks had towering figures of outdoor history — not to mention family tradition — blazing the trail as examples. And those examples, like Daniel Boone and the fur trappers of the Old West, tended to be white.

As Stuff White People Like says, “In theory camping should be a very inexpensive activity since you are literally sleeping on the ground. But as with everything in white culture, the more simple it appears the more expensive it actually is.” You may need to fly to your destination; otherwise, you’ll need a car and a full tank of gas. A backpack, tent, and the necessary gear will run you at least $1,000. And then you need some free time—which, if you work two jobs, you probably don’t have. That may explain why 40 percent of outdoor participants come from households with incomes of $75,000 or more, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s report… (…More…)

I guess God doesn’t go outdoors…

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Nations Oldest Park Ranger Words of Wisdom

This is awesome!

If you are over 55 and grew up in the Southern US – you more than likely remember segregation and Jim Crow having lived through the last parts of it. Ranger Soskin at 92 years of age has seen much of the change in this country starting before WWII. Her insights are fascinating…

Nation’s oldest full-time park ranger, from California, furloughed

The nation’s oldest full-time national park ranger, who works at the  Rosie the Riveter museum in Richmond, Calif., recently joined the ranks of the furloughed because of the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.

Betty Reid Soskin, 92, is a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Northern California.

“At 92, I am very sensitive to the passage of time. We learned about the furlough gradually,” Soskin said told the Associated Press last week. “When it came at midnight (on) October 1, it seemed like a major interruption in my life because I don’t have time and these young folks were wasting my time, precious time.”

To make matters worse for Soskin, California officials refused Friday to use state money to open national parks, which means no reprieve for Soskin.

Soskin works three days a week as a tour guide and two days in the administrative office at the park that honors not only the famous Rosie but also tells the story of the home front during WWII.

Soskin became a park ranger seven years ago and leads tours at the park and museum that honors the women who worked in factories during wartime.But that all changed last week when the government shut down.

“It was like hitting a wall to come out from under my hat and back into civvies,” Soskin said.

She said she feels uncertain when she watches the developments between lawmakers in Washington, D.C., unfold on television.

“There are times when I feel like the only grown-up in the room. It’s a little disconcerting to feel like no one’s in charge. That’s the feeling I have when I watch the news,” Soskin said. “There are not enough wiser heads in Washington to determine where we should go. That uncertainty is unnerving.”

The National Park Service confirms that Soskin is the oldest full-time park ranger. At 93, Lyle Ruterbories, who works at Glacier National Park in Kintla Lake, Mont., near the U.S. and Canadian border, is the oldest seasonal ranger the park service is aware of, park service spokesman Jeff Olson told the AP this week.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Niagra Falls/National Park Deaths – What’s the Deal?

What’s the deal this year with the number of folks voluntarily eliminating themselves from the gene pool by “accidentally” falling in the water rushing over waterfalls or getting eaten by the wildlife in National Parks? There were the three folks at Yosemite Falls, and now, at Niagra Falls. And it is not just waterfalls – it’s been the deadliest year on record for tourists at the National Parks.

I mean – the way things are going the “Spirit of the Mists”, the boat that goes near the bottom of the Niagra Falls is going to need an airbag on the top to catch the falling bodies.

Considering that over 50% of the folks who wrap themselves in barrels to go over the Niagra Falls wind up dead…

It should be patently obvious nobody is swimming up the falls.

I’ve been to both Yosemite and Niagra Falls, and can tell you both are worth the trip. However, the sound and feel of the ground shaking as metric tons of water pour over the Niagra Falls ought to give anyone pause.

First time I went to Yellowstone was back when the bears still freely roamed the park in the 60’s. One of the thrills was being in a Double-Decker bus, when one of the grizzlies or smaller brown bears would stand up on his hind legs and look straight in through the window at you. Just in case you thought “Yogi” differentiated between you and any other snack food which might offer itself – they had the skin of a 10′ tall grizzly hanging in the old – Old Faithful Lodge entrance. It had been killed by a Park Ranger, and you could see the bullet holes where he first shot it 13 times with his 44-40 Winchester rifle, and then 6 more times with his pistol… After which the bear ate the Park Ranger before expiring…

Here – Police searching for a moron they did know about – found one that they didn’t know about:

Niagara Falls Search for Woman Turns Up Man’s Body

 An odd footnote to the sad tale of the 19-year-old student swept over Niagara Fallson Sunday. An international search team dispatched in a helicopter to look for her body in Niagara Falls Gorge instead turned up the body of an unknown male. Authorities are working to identify him, reports KTLA. Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the tragic weekend incident: The woman, presumed drowned, was an international student from Japan.

The Toronto Star talks to a witness who saw her posing on the railing for a photo moments before she fell, wearing a bright red sweatshirt and holding an umbrella. The paper notes that earlier the same day, a 27-year-old man scaled a safety wall and tumbled into Niagara River Gorge; he and a friend who went in to save him were rescued, though the man fractured his leg.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in News

 

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