Feb 28, 2023 - News

Revisiting Cleveland's Green Book sites

The Majestic Hotel in Cleveland postcard image that is an artist drawing of the old building.

Cleveland's Majestic Hotel was one of the largest Black-owned hotels in the country. Photo: Cleveland State University/Michael Schwartz Library/Special Collection

As Black History Month draws to a close, we're revisiting the Cleveland locations featured in "The Negro Motorist Green Book."

  • The book, published from the 1930s to the mid-1960s, highlighted businesses around the country that were safe for Black travelers during the Jim Crow era.

Why it matters: Iconic musicians, athletes and civil rights activists found comfort in these vetted spots, which got renewed attention with the 2018 Oscar-winning film "Green Book."

Zoom in: Northeast Ohio was home to more than two dozen sites featured in the Green Book.

  • The list includes Cleveland's Majestic Hotel, one of the largest Black-owned hotels in the country until it closed the late 1960s, and Ward Apartment Hotel, a Black-owned inn that existed from 1919 to 1957.
  • Hot Sauce Williams Barbeque, a popular restaurant run by New Orleans native Eugene "Hot Sauce" Williams, operated from 1935 to 1958 on Central Avenue, and the defunct Cedar Branch YMCA, established as an interracial institution in the 1920s, were also included.

The intrigue: Northeast Ohio had more than 100 safe havens that were not featured in the Green Book and went undocumented until recently.

  • In August 2021, Mark Souther, director of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, launched Green Book Cleveland to spotlight these locations.
  • His list includes renowned music club Leo's Casino and Cleveland's United Negro Improvement Association chapter at Liberty Hall.

Zoom out: Unfortunately, the National Park Service estimates that fewer than 20% of the sites listed nationwide in "The Negro Motorist Green Book" are still standing, including those in Cleveland.

Of note: Most locations listed on Green Book Cleveland's website no longer exist.

  • However, the building that housed Loop Lounge, a jazz club frequented by Miles Davis and Charlie Parker in the 1950s, still stands at 614 Prospect Ave.

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