What the Original 'Green Book' Had to Say About Alabama
Willie Chriesman/Á la Carte Alabama
There was a time when people of color—particularly African-Americans—were not welcomed at many Alabama restaurants. In fact, going to some might even have been dangerous.
The movie “Green Book” tells the story of two men—one black, one white—driving through the Jim Crow South of the ‘60’s.
The title is based on an actual publication that was considered essential if you were an African-American traveler who wanted to know where it was safe to stay—or to eat—during your journey.
The official title was “The Negro Traveler’s Green Book.” The text of the 1949 edition can be found on the internet. In it, it lists eight locations in Alabama deemed “safe” for the Negro traveler. That was a pretty low number considering Georgia had 17…Tennessee had a whopping 66. Even Mississippi had 38 locations listed.
Of the eight Alabama places named…there were six hotels…one tavern and one restaurant. The one restaurant named was Bonnie’s in Montgomery.
Later added to the list was the restaurant at Birmingham’s A.G. Gaston Motel. Built in the 1950’s, it later became known as the place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would stay as he held strategy sessions around the civil rights movement in that city.
Ironically, with the passage of civil rights laws in the ‘60’s and the ability for anybody to eat at any public restaurant they wanted, the need for places like Bonnie’s and the Gaston Motel restaurant diminished.
Begun in 1936…the last edition of the Green Book came out in 1967.
In 2017…the Gaston Motel property was included in a presidential proclamation establishing the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. It’s slated for a massive restoration project scheduled to be completed in 2020.
We couldn’t find any information abut the fate of Bonnie’s in Montgomery. But if you know what happened to it, drop us a line at info-at our Contact page.