DENVER (CBS4) – Despite the controversy and backlash, the Green Book won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Critics call the movie racially tone deaf and an inaccurate portrayal of what filmmakers claim is a “true story.” The Oscar-winning film wouldn’t exist without Victor Green’s “Negro Motorist Green Book.”
African Americans used the Green Book as a travel guide during the Jim Crow Era. It became an invaluable resource for black people on road.
“Grandmas saved it for their kids to go traveling safely,” said Terry Nelson, Senior Special Collection and Community Resource Manager at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library.
CBS4’s Tori Mason met Nelson during a screening of the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, “The Green Book: Guide to Freedom.” The documentary tells the story of Victor Green and gives an in-depth history of his travel guide. Cultural documentarian Candacy Taylor contributed to the documentary with her years of extensive research.
“It listed everything from restaurants, to doctors, to drug stores. There were so many things you may need on the road that weren’t available to you,” said Taylor.
Taylor’s been awarded several grants for her research on the Green Book. She says postal workers helped expand it. It wasn’t long before it made its way to Colorado.
“Denver made a big splash in the Green Book,” said Taylor. Nearly all of Denver’s listings were in Five Points.
“The one that had the most notoriety was the Rossonian because they had really big time stars,” said Nelson.
“Sara Vaughn, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington would play downtown, but they couldn’t stay downtown. So they would come to the Five Points District and stay at the Rossonian,” explained Taylor.
For the last 20 years, it’s been a vacant building on Welton Street.
“The Five Points district in Denver was the Harlem of the West. It was the place to party and have fun and dress up. It was special!” said Taylor.
The goal is to make the Rossonian special once again. The Green Book site is being restored to its former glory, as a hotel and jazz lounge.
As for actual copies of the Green Book? They haven’t been produced in decades and they’re hard to come by now. And that is a good thing.