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The Green Book in Arkansas

Department of Arkansas Heritage - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

With the recent release of the film by the same name, there’s been increased interest in what exactly the “Green Book” was and what sort of presence Arkansas businesses had in the guide.

The Green Book was first introduced in 1936 to provide African American travelers with information on businesses that would serve them. From the introduction to the 1949 edition of the book: “With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.”

The introduction concludes thus: “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 privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go to wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.”

The guide was published until 1965, although publication was temporarily halted during World War II.

The 1949 issue of the Green Book contained dozens of listings in Arkansas, including properties in Arkadelphia, Brinkley, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hope, Hot Springs, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Camden, South Camden, Pine Bluff, Fordyse (sic), Helena, Russellville and Texarkana. The types of businesses included in the guide included restaurants, hotels, tourist homes, service stations, beauty parlors and beauty schools, barbers, night clubs, service stations, garages, sanitariums and more.

For example, Velvatex College of Beauty Culture was listed in the guide as early as 1947. Velvatex was established in Little Rock in 1929 by Mrs. M. E. Patterson. The business has a 90-year history of female African American entrepreneurship. In 2018, Velvatex collaborated with Mosaic Templars Cultural Center to create an exhibit celebrating the history and culture of black hair. Following the exhibit, Velvatex donated numerous artifacts from its collections to the the museum. 

The Martin Building on West Ninth Street, which once housed the Farun Restaurant, circa 1968

A number of businesses in the West Ninth Street black business district, near where Mosaic Templars Cultural Center sits today, are also included in the guide. The building, which housed the Farun Restaurant (listed in the guide from 1949-1953), is one of the few West Ninth Street buildings of that era still standing today.

The Latimore Tourist Home in Russellville

Although most of the businesses listed in the Green Book are no longer in operation, and many of the buildings are gone, a few still remain. One such place is the Latimore Tourist Home in Russellville. The Latimore is notable as it was the only accommodation listed in the book between Little Rock and Fort Smith. Today, the home still stands but has become derelict and condemned. Preserve Arkansas included the Latimore Tourist Home on its 2018 list of Most Endangered Places.

 

Below are photos of the pages containing the Arkansas entries in the 1949 edition of the Green Book.