Feb 16, 2023 - News

The Green Book: Businesses that welcomed Black people before 1964

An old building with elk emblem.

The William H. Patterson Elks Lodge. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

Few hotels and restaurants in Phoenix welcomed Black people before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced businesses to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

  • Places that did allow Black customers were listed in The Green Book travel guides, which helped Black people navigate visits to segregated towns.

Zoom in: We found just two Green Book structures still standing in Phoenix.

  • Swindall's Tourist Home, near 10th and Washington streets, was built in 1914 and became a hotel in 1920. The building was named after its second owners, Golden and Elvira Swindall, and is on the National and Phoenix Registers of Historic Places.
  • The William H. Patterson Elks Lodge, at Seventh Avenue and Tonto Street, remains operational. During the mid-1900s, it was a hub for Black culture and community. Baseball star Willie Mays frequented the lodge during spring training and was named an honorary member.

Why it matters: The remaining sites are visible reminders that America's segregated past was not so long ago.

A blue house.
The former Swindall's Tourist Home near downtown Phoenix. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios

State of play: The guides — which received renewed attention thanks to the eponymous 2018 Oscar-winning movie — ceased publication decades ago.

Flashback: Isabel Wilkerson's book "The Warmth of Other Suns" depicts one Black man's experiences trying to find a motel in Phoenix while driving from Louisiana to Los Angeles in 1953.

  • After being rejected by several motels that falsely claimed they didn't have available rooms, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster asked another to tell him if they had a policy against renting rooms to Black people.
  • The owner explained he and his wife were from Illinois and didn't share other Phoenicians' racist views, but they couldn't rent to him for fear that other motel owners would ostracize them.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to remove the reference to Swindall's Tourist Home being a CPA’s office.


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