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Travelers look back on Tulsa ties to the 'Green Book' and Greenwood District

Travelers look back on Tulsa ties to the "Green Book"
Posted at 8:58 PM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 23:41:28-05

TULSA, Okla. — Travelers called it the Green Book or The Book: a guide for African-Americans it outlined the safest places and those to avoid while on the road.

"We couldn't go to these towns and sleep and get a hotel room or eat... so we had to have a safety net: a place where we could enjoy ourselves, get a good meal without any kind of hassle," Leon Rollerson said.

Like the character in this year's hit movie, Rollerson was a traveling musician. He said the experiences were much worse than those seen in the film. In one year, Rollerson was stopped by police about 50 times.

"Guns were pointed at us, put to our head. We were told to crawl, crawl like an animal. We were told once they left us, if they saw us one minute after they left us, that we would be killed," he said.

In Tulsa, the Greenwood District acted as a safe haven, offering different restaurants and hotels to African-American travelers.

"We understood that and we had to survive, that's why we came up with the Greenwood District so we could have all the things that we needed right here on Greenwood and make things happen," Rollerson said.

This came at a time when blacks and whites couldn't socialize together in Tulsa. Others who traveled through the area in the Jim Crow era said they're still upset by the hatred they encountered.

Harold Dorsey visited with a friend and said they were sometimes turned down by three to four hotels in a day.

"They turned him down for no reason other than he was Afro-American, negro, whatever they were calling it back then... or just black," Dorsey said.

Both men said without this tool, they wouldn't be alive today.

"If you stopped in the wrong place and asked for lodging you would have run into a lot of opposition and you could easily be killed," Rollerson said.

The travelers said although Tulsa has improved, there's still room to grow.

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