From 1936 until 1966, New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green published The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guide advising African-American travelers on which hotels, restaurants, and other businesses were safe for them. They’re amazing artifacts, not just in documenting our nation’s Jim Crow past but also in seeing how the African-American dollar increasingly beat down segregation with its spending power.
And The Negro Motorist Green Book is also a fascinating study in what travelers experienced on the road, or what they didn’t even bother with. As a result, Orange County only merited two mentions in the guide’s entire run of thousands of listings. In 1951, an essay on Southern California urged visitors to swing by “famed San Juan Capistrano” and engage in “excellent dove shooting”—probably the last time you’ll ever hear doves beat swallows in the city’s avian game. But tellingly, that year’s guide didn’t recommend any places to stay at in Orange County, and who could blame ’em? U.S. Census figures for 1950 showed that Brea had all of two black residents that year, and would only have one by 1960—um, yeah…
More interesting was the 1963 Green Book. For the first time, an OC location merited a full listing: Disneyland. “The Negro traveler,” that year’s intro stated, “is looking for ‘vacation without aggravation,” and declared a day at Disneyland was now considered safe for black families. Mickey Town would warrant an entry for the rest of the Green Book‘s run. Tellingly, there was never a listing for Knott’s Berry Farm, probably because founder Walter Knott was buddies with OC Congressman James Utt, who that year was railing about “barefooted Africans” getting trained by the United Nations to invade the U.S.
OC has never been particularly kind to black tourists. As our incomplete timeline of embarrassing anti-black moments in OC shows, they’ve had to deal with everything from a beach club getting burned down to racist receipts at bars to even the White Rabbit getting sued for being a bigoted asshole at Disneyland. But it’s nice to know that, even for a brief moment, black folks didn’t think OC racist. Just for a moment—stay classy, OC!