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The Green Book and African American Travel with Candacy Taylor on the Folklife Today Podcast

Photo shows a crowded lunchroom with a counter, at which three men are seated, including Muhammad Ali. Behind the counter, Malcolm X stands with a camera, taking a photo of Ali.

This photo, which hangs at the Hampton House, shows Malcolm X taking a photo of Muhammad Ali, at Ali’s victory party after he defeated Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964. Find the photo and related interview here.

Season 3, Episode 4 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. As usual, I’ll use this blog post to direct you to fuller audio and video of the items we mentioned in the podcast, and to give you more background on the topic.

But first:

Get your podcast here!

Photo shows oral historian Candacy Taylor with Leah Chase, an elderly woman seated in a wheelchair.

Candacy Taylor with Leah Chase after their 2018 interview at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Find the photo and interview at this link.

In this episode, John Fenn and I interview Candacy Taylor, whose latest project is documenting sites associated with the Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Taylor discusses the dangers inherent in travel for Black people during an era where racial discrimination was legal and open racism was common. She fills us in on the origins of the Green Book. We discuss sites such as Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans, where owner Leah Chase slapped the hand of President Barack Obama for adding hot sauce to her famous gumbo, and where she fed a young Michael Jackson her signature sweet potato pie. We also discuss the historic Hampton House, a Jewish-owned hotel in Miami, where a young boxer named Cassius Clay met Malcolm X and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced his most famous speech. We hear parts of interviews with Enid Pinkney, who restored the Hampton House; Jerry Markowitz, whose parents owned the Hampton House; Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s; and Nelson Malden, Dr. King’s barber in Montgomery, Alabama.

Candacy Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian working on a multidisciplinary project based on the Green Book. Taylor is the author of the book Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America. She is currently developing exhibits, multimedia presentations, and many other programs based on the Green Book, which she discusses in the podcast. Her work on the Green Book has received grants from Harvard University, National Geographic, The National Park Service, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Graham Foundation, California Humanities, and The American Council of Learned Societies. And, we’re very proud to say, it was funded by an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which means the original interviews come to AFC as part of our Occupational Folklife Project.

Because of this, I can direct you to the full interviews for each person whose voice you hear in the podcast.

Leah Chase’s interview is about Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans, one of the first fine dining restaurants for Black people in the United States. She specifically discusses her interactions with Barack Obama and Michael Jackson. Among the other notables she served were the Freedom Riders, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, and Martin Luther King Jr. Find Leah Chase’s interview and photos of Dooky Chase’s restaurant at this link.

An African American woman sits behind a desk. Her nameplate reads Enid Curtis Pinkney, EdD.

Photograph of Dr. Pinkney in her office. Photo by Candacy Taylor. Find the photo and interview at this link.

Dr. Enid Pinkney’s interview is about the historic Hampton House in Miami, where Malcolm X met and converted Cassius Clay, who was thereafter known as Muhammad Ali. She also discusses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s love of the Hampton House. Find Enid Pinkney’s interview and photos of the Hampton House at this link.

Jerry Markowitz’s interview is also about the Hampton House, which his parents owned. In particular, he discusses his parents’ Jewish background, which he believes influenced them to welcome African Americans to their hotel in a place and time when most white-owned establishments did not. Find Jerry Markowitz’s interview and photos of the Hampton House at this link.

An African American man stands outdoors by a brick wall.

Photograph of Nelson Malden outside his home, by Candacy Taylor. Find the photo and interview at this link.

Nelson Malden’s barbershop was in the ground floor of the Ben Moore Hotel, a Green Book site in Montgomery, Alabama. He cut Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hair for six years from 1954 to 1960. Malden started cutting hair in 1948 and served other legendary figures such as Little Richard, B.B. King, and many of the civil rights activists who strategized the 1954 Montgomery Bus Boycott. Find Nelson Malden’s interview and photos of the Malden Brothers barbershop and Ben Moore Hotel at this link.

There’s more background on the Green Book project, and many more interviews and photos, over at AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project Pages, at this link.

Candacy Taylor spoke about her work on the Green Book at AFC’s symposium Women Documenting the World.  You can find a video of that symposium at this link.

For further updates on Taylor’s work, visit her website, Taylor Made Culture.

Finally, in case you lost track, this blog post is about our new podcast episode, online at this link!



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