By Tim Lacy, Special ot the AFRO
“Green Book” is a new release that just hit the box office in theaters near you. Unfortunately people of color aren’t familiar with the subject matter. There are no couples fighting for divorce, no detectives trying to solve murder cases, no star ships fighting to save the planet and no cowboys riding into Dodge City with guns drawn. I polled my cousin who is a minute older than me and spends his time keeping up with the latest flicks. He didn’t know and didn’t want to know. When I told him it was a travel Bible for Colored people, he responded with, “What???”
My reaction was the same when I read “Ruth and The Green Book” by Alexander Ramsey. Mr Ramsey called me one day and introduced himself. He was an author and was in search of some inside info on the life of Sam Lacy (my pop). At the close of our conversation, he promised to send me a copy of his new book. Whatever! When the book arrived, it won a spot on the pile of unread literature I didn’t have the heart to throw away.
Out of boredom one day I picked up this book and an hour or so later realized I had lived through the necessity of such a periodical. During the 40’s and 50’s travel through the segregated south was a test of intestinal fortitude. Segregated restrooms, water fountains and road travelers had to go to the back door of restaurants for service. Be sure to take it with you.
As I reflected on these things, memories came flooding back. Why did my uncle Gonza have a moving company for Negros? I didn’t care as long as my cousin David and I could drive the trucks up and down the alley. Why did my dad spend a year shadowing Jackie Robinson? It was no big deal to me, and I reaped the benefits of going to spring training with the Dodgers.
My uncle Erskine used to tell me stories of rooming houses he used when traveling in pursuit of poker games. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t stay in a hotel. He always had a pocket full of money. I began to get the picture when Larry Doby, Minnie Minosa, Pop and I shared a home with a family when at spring training with the Cleveland Indians.
Once when in New York for a Sugar Ray Robinson fight, we found the Theresa Hotel (Coloreds only) full. We were directed to the Cecil Hotel. For a kid this was just another adventure. However it only lasted until my Mom turned on the lights to go to the bathroom. This started a roach stampede and I can only remember me standing on the sidewalk in my pajamas. Pop worked it out, but I was too sleepy to care. See the movie and pick up a copy of the book, you will thank me.