N.C. Green Book Project

Marty Tschetter, left, local history librarian at Wayne County Public Library, talks with Lisa Withers, research historian with the N.C. Green Book Project being conducted by the N.C. African American Heritage Commission.

The local history librarian at Wayne County Public Library is always asking, how does Wayne County fit into the bigger picture?

So when Marty Tschetter discovered that a state agency is doing research on North Carolina Green Book locations, he set out to make sure Wayne County is represented.

Many likely became familiar with the Green Book because of the 2018 popular film by that name.

But there is more to be told, Tschetter said.

“The Green Book existed from 1936 to 1966 for the ‘Negro tourist,’ to provide ‘safe’ businesses, restaurants and lodging throughout the U.S. during segregation and Jim Crow laws,” he said.

“There are seven locations in Wayne County, the longest one being in Mount Olive dating back to 1939.”

The N.C. African American Heritage Commission is researching 327 sites in North Carolina, listed in the “Negro Motorist Green Book” and working to document stories from residents and relatives of anyone with memories, photos or stories to share.

Tschetter said he has discovered several businesses in Goldsboro and one in Mount Olive, which were listed in the Green Book, but details are spotty. He provided the News-Argus with the local business names and addresses that were known and people listed as affiliated with some of the businesses.

In Mount Olive, the Black Beauty Tea Room was listed in the Green Book travel guide from as early as 1939 and as late as 1954, but information like the addresses and current status of the buildings is unknown. 

The other places, all in Goldsboro, include the following:

• Raynard’s, a beauty parlor at 619 Devereaux St., and Thornton’s, listed as a shaving parlor or barber shop, at 517 Alvin St. The only name listed was Eugene Thornton, with Thornton's shaving parlor.

• Garris Dry Cleaners and Hatters at 208 N. Center St. Edward B. Garris was affiliated with the business.

• Scott’s, a popular barbecue restaurant, 404 Gulley St., with Martel Scott's name attached.

• Jackson's, a drug store at 400 S. James St., with Osceola Jackson's name listed.

• Anchor Inn, listed as a lodging or road house, at 1013 S. George St., with Roland Crawford listed as being affiliated with the business.

Lisa Withers, a research historian with the commission, is traveling around the state interviewing residents and gathering information for the project.

Tschetter said he met her at a conference and was immediately intrigued by the effort.

“I want Wayne County represented,” he said. “I would love to be included in the research.

“There are over 300 places in the state. I figured I could do the local research for her, connect her with people that can be interviewed. Hopefully, even descendants of some of the people who owned these businesses."

The biggest challenges are that most of those from that era may be deceased, and the structures have either been demolished or no longer exist. What does exist is in memories, Tschetter said.

He has spoken with some — family members or residents willing to share what they recall, he said.

"The entry that's in there the longest, the 1939 through the early 1950s (editions), is a place in Mount Olive called the Black Beauty Tea Room," he said. "The challenges are for me, is we don't have any city directories that far back for Mount Olive.

"I've talked to people that went to Carver (High School) who remember and they showed me where the location was. It was really close to Carver High School."

Tschetter also went to the New York Public Library webpage and discovered many of the Green Books had been digitized, so he was able to print out the covers. Most, however, did not have addresses.

Part of Withers' job is to identify all of the places listed in the publications and do fact-checking, building on research begun in 2016.

"I have been fortunate to have some interns," she said. "We're looking for city directories, maps, starting to identify people. We're going through census records, death certificates, to identify not only the people but also the physical structure.

"In the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with urban renewal programs, a lot of them were demolished, a lot of them were in neighborhoods, a lot of them were in historic black neighborhoods that, unfortunately, blocks were torn down."

The end goal is to create a website about the Green Book, she said, and to have two identical traveling exhibits that will be taken around the state. Both are scheduled to launch in March 2020 and probably run through 2021, she said.

Tschetter is lobbying to have Wayne County included in both the information and hopefully be a stop on the tour.

"Right now we're making connections," he said. "As community members have learned about this project, we've had success with buy-in with it. Probably the thing I'm most excited about is when community members connect us with descendants of the folks who owned these places, that has been incredible.

"I really am hopeful as people are seeing the list, that if they know these people, they can connect us with the descendants."

For more on the project, visit aahc.nc.gov/green-book-project. Tschetter can also be reached at 919-735-1824, ext. 5117.