“‘The Green Book,’ with its list of hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, beauty shops, barber shops and various other services can most certainly help solve your travel problems … It was the idea of Victor H. Green, the publisher, in introducing ‘The Green Book,’ to save the travelers of his race as many difficulties and embarrassments as possible,” Wendell P. Alston wrote in the 1949 edition of “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book.”
Victor H. Green had an idea to publish a guide of safe places that African-Americans could patronize as they traveled throughout the United States. Green, a postal worker, corroborated with his postal colleagues around the country and published “The Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936,” later known as “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” or more commonly, simply “The Green Book.”
Due to Jim Crow laws, African-Americans understood that they were not welcomed in many restaurants, particularly in the South. As they traveled, African-Americans would pack enough food to last them for the duration of the trip. Eating was one obstacle, lodging was an entirely different hurdle.
“42,” a film produced about the great Jackie Robinson, who was one of the first African-Americans to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, highlighted how he could not room with his teammates in the same hotel. Robinson later spoke out against Jim Crow and criticized hotels that refused him. A number of hotels and restaurants where the Dodgers stayed integrated as a result.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin and thus allowed African-Americans to move freely throughout the country. “The Green Book” discontinued its publication soon after this bill was passed.
An offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement has spawned a Black Dollars Matter movement as well. With traction from social media, Blacks were challenged to move their money to African-American owned financial institutions. Thousands of accounts have been opened and more than $30 million dollars have transferred into African-American-owned banks as a result. Now African-Americans are being challenged to “Travel Black.”
Green once wrote, “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” however, Andy Ingraham, founder of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers (NABHOOD) recognized Green’s dream, “That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States,” had not yet been achieved.
Today’s version of “The Green Book” is the digital platform, www.millionstwoone.com, an African-American business directory. The directory lists thousands of Black-owned hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, retail shopping locations, physicians, attorneys and more.
In 1998, Ingraham assembled a group of professionals to increase the number of African-American owned hotels. The group recognized that the tourism and hospitality industry did not have a considerable amount of African-American owners nor did it have many top level executives. NABHOOD formed to create more opportunities and privileges for African-Americans.
Every July, Ingraham hosts a trade show to provide attendees with the opportunity to meet other African-American hotel owners, national leaders and top industry professionals. The summit highlights opportunities in investments and supplier diversity and hotel ownership with major hotel brands such as Marriott, Hilton and Choice Hotels.
A rising star who owes much of his hotel ownership and development success to NABHOOD is Evens Charles, the founder and managing principal of Frontier Development & Hospitality Group, LLC. Charles got his start in real estate by developing residential properties. Frontier Development & Hospitality Group, LLC has since acquired and developed hotel assets with a total capitalization of over $125 million, completing over 75 real estate transactions since its inception. Frontier Development & Hospitality Group, LLC and its partner Kana Hotels recently acquired a 221 room Embassy Suites in Columbus, Ohio from RLJ Lodging Trust, whose founder and managing principal is Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Today, there are close to 700 African-American owned hotels in the United States. African-Americans currently own hotels in every major market in the U.S. including Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Dallas, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The 1,175 room Washington Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel is owned by Capstone Development Corp., managing principal, Norman Jenkins.
Jenkins, an African-American, is currently developing two more hotels in the Washington, D.C. area.
The Embassy Suites outside of Los Angeles in Downey on 8425 Firestone Boulevard is owned by RLJ Lodging Trust. The 860 room Doubletree Manhattan at 569 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan is also owned by RLJ. RLJ is one of the few African-American owned companies that is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.