Virginia may add road signs marking important spots from Jim Crow

Virginia may soon have road signs marking significant spots from the Jim Crow era, when Black Americans often had to be careful about where they went and which businesses they walked into.

Under a bill passed by the House of Delegates Tuesday, Virginia would add historical markers showing “Green Book” sites across the state.

Those are sites that were said to be safe for Black Americans. They included various “hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug stores, taverns, barber shops and restaurants,” according to the legislation.

“The Green Book was a way for individuals to be able to find safe places to stay during Jim Crow,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Mike Mullin.

There was an Oscar-winning movie about the Green Book made in 2018.

Susan Hellman, a researcher who has documented all of the Virginia Green Book sites, said there are 315 of them across the state. Most of them are included in a map assembled by the University of Virginia.

“In driving around, I found that probably about three-fourths of those are gone,” Hellman said. “They’ve been demolished, but we are able to determine the location.”

Due to its centralized location along the mid Atlantic coast, Virginia had a substantial presence in the Green Book from 1938 to 1967. Virginia was a destination, a departure point and a place to pass through when traveling between northern and southern states.

“We will be working to get a complete inventory of all of those sites to determine which are still standing and which are not,” said Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The bill heads to the Virginia Senate, where it is expected to pass. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration has also said it supports the idea.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia Department of Transportation would all work together in getting the signs up.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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