Travel

The Green Book.

The Negro Motorist Green Book (later titled The Negro Travelers’ Green Book and called the Green Book) was an annual guidebook for African-American travelers. New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green published the volume during the Jim Crow era, from 1936 to 1966, when hotels, restaurants and other businesses openly discriminated against black motorists. To counter the inconveniences and dangers and inconveniences they faced along the road, Green created a guide to services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans.

Only a few of the many Wilson businesses catering to black clientele were listed in the Green Book. The 1941 edition of the guide is excerpted below.

Victor H. Green, The Negro Motorist Green-Book (1941).

  • Biltmore, East Washington Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory does not list a hotel on East Washington, nor am I aware of any hotel at any time on Washington.
  • The Wilson Biltmore, 539 East Nash Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory lists Libby McPhatter‘s cafe at 539 East Nash. However, per the nomination form for Wilson’s Central Business District Historic District, McPhatter’s cafe was at 541, in one of two buildings erected after the three-story Hotel Union burned in the late 1940s. [3/1/2019 — See first link for an update on the Wilson Biltmore.]
  • M. Jones, 1209 East Queen Street — The 1941 Wilson city directory does not list an M. Jones at 1209 East Queen Street, nor an M. Jones who is a taxi driver.
  • The 1948 Green Book lists the same three businesses in Wilson. Odd.

Copy of Green Book courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections.

A sailor returns.

On 1 June 1956, 31 year-old Jesse F. Barnes set sail from Yokohama, Japan, aboard the U.S.S. General William Mitchell bound to arrive at the port of Seattle, Washington, in ten days. A native of Wilson and 1942 graduate of Darden High School, Barnes took passage in cabin class. The William Mitchell was a troopship that served with the United States Navy in World War II and the Korean War, regularly returned service men and women from Asia to Seattle.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 411 Singletary Street, odd jobs laborer Harry Barnes, 49; wife Rena, 46; and children William H., 22, Maggie, 17, Harry Jr., 16, David, 12, and Jesse F., 5; son-in-law Carter Powell, 30, and daughter Anna, 27.

Washington Passenger & Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Seattle, Washington, 1882-1965, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service 1787 – 2004, [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Voyage to Havana.

On 20 August 1937, Camillus and Norma Duncan Darden boarded the S.S. Cuba at Havana, Cuba, for a one-day return to the United States arriving in Tampa, Florida, on the 21st. The Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company operated the Cuba.

U.S. Citizen Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Tampa, Florida, digitized at Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

 

He has always conducted himself as an American citizen.

Wilson native Isaiah Prophet Thorne‘s peripatetic lifestyle criss-crossing Europe as an entertainer required that he periodically apply for passport renewals and demonstrate his continued allegiance to the United States.

In the earliest document I’ve found, dated 1909, 24 year-old Thorne asserted that he was a singer, that he had left the U.S. in 1898, and that he was temporarily living in Berlin, Germany.

IP Thorne 1.png

In 1915, his application required additional information revealing that his father was dead; that he was now working as a vaudeville artist in Naples, Italy; that he had last left the U.S. in February 1910; and that he needed his passport to travel in Italy, Egypt, Tripolitania [Libya], Greece, France, Spain and England “performing in vaudeville.”

IP Thorne 2

This application contained a small photograph affixed to its reverse and appears to list a contact relative: Warren Thorne, 604 Spring Street, Wilson.

IP Thorne 3

Two years later, Thorne again applied for a renewal, indicating that he was a theatrical performer who had left the United States in September 1907 (which conflicts with the statement above) and was now staying in Saloniki, Greece.

IP Thorne 6

World War I was raging, and Thorne had joined the British Colonial Force. He was required to submit an Affidavit to Explain Protracted Foreign Residence and to Overcome Presumption of Expatriation. He confirmed that he had last been in the United States in 1907 and had spent the intervening years performing in England, Germany, Holland, Russia, Denmark, Romania, Turkey, Egypt, Italy and Greece. He claimed that he did not pay income tax because he made too little income, and he was not sure when he would return to the U.S., but was willing to do so “if called for service.”

IP Thorne 7

The interviewing officer, American Vice-Consul H. Earle Russell, concluded that Thorne’s explanation for his protracted foreign residence was satisfactory and that he was “entitled to protection as an American citizen.”

IP Thorne 8

In 1920, Thorne again applied to renew his passport. This application erroneously asserted that he had first left the U.S. in 1888 (when he was only 3), but revealed that his father was named Preston Thorne. It also yields a beautiful black and white image of the man.

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Isaiah P. Thorne apparently never returned to the United States. I have found only one additional source of reference for his life — in the final pages of The Black Russian, Vladimir Alexandrov’s astounding biography of Frederick Bruce Thomas, the Mississippi-born son of former slaves who built a fortune of millions as the owner and impresario of renowned restaurants and nightclubs in Moscow and Istanbul: “Frederick died … on Tuesday, June 12, 1928, at the age of fifty-five. Because [his wife] Elvira was out of the country, all funeral arrangements were made by his friends. One of these was Isaiah Thorne, a black man from North Carolina who had worked for him at Maxim and who became his token executor.”; “Isaiah Thorne effectively adopted [Frederick’s sons Bruce and Frederick Jr.] when [their mother] Elvira was away ….”; “On November 25, 1930, at Thorne’s instigation, Fred and Bruce went to the American consulate general in Constantinople to apply for a passport” because “he wanted to help them escape the hardships of their lives in Turkey by taking them with him to North Carolina, where he had family.”; but “Thorne did not succeed in taking the boys to the United States because he could not raise the money ….”

Box 4495, Volume 002: Constantinople, Emergency Passport Applications, Argentina thru Venezuela, 1906-1925; U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line], http://www.Ancestry.com

Visitations, no. 1.

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New York Age, 30 April 1914.

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New York Age, 1 October 1927.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 6 January 1934.

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New York Age, 5 September 1936.

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New York Age, 31 August 1946.

  • W.H. Lytle and Weslow Lytle
  • Mabel E. Roundtree — In the 1920 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, farmer Jack Rountree, 57, wife Lucile, 47, and children Julius, 24, Julius’ wife Leda, 23, John Henry, 17, Jessie, 16, Mabel, 14, and Ola May Rountree, 10, and Cora Farmer, 19.

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New York Age, 12 July 1919.

  • Mrs. Levy Arrington — In the 1930 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: at 208 Reid Street, carpenter Levi Arrington, 38, wife Rosa, 40, daughter Zelma, 16, and lodger Nelly Sharp, 20, a cook. Rosa Arrington died 11 June 1964 in Wilson. Her death certificate reports that she was born in Nash County on 2 May 1887 to Amie Salvage.
  • Gilda A. Whitley
  • Emma Williams
  • Mrs. Georgianna Artis — Nathan Artis married George Anna Fort on 8 January 1929 in Wayne County. In the 1940 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: laborer Nathan Artis, 39, wife Georgiana, 37, and children Bertha Lee, 17, Virginia, 14, and Minnie Louise, 7. Georgianna O. Artis died 14 October 1949 in Stantonsburg. Her death certificate reports that she was born 16 June 1903 in Wayne County to James Ford [Forte] and Mary Coley.