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Michigan gets grant toward preserving history of Green Books

Historic Wilson Grocery in Idlewild, Michigan. It's a small tan building. There's a brown sign with the store's anem

Historic Wilson Grocery in Idlewild, Michigan. (Photo by rossograph via Wikimedia Commons)

Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office has received a $75,000 grant toward preserving recreational locations that served African Americans. 

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation on Wednesday announced the grant, which is administered by the National Parks Service (NPS). 

The funding comes from the Historic Preservation Fund’s African American Civil Rights History program, and will be used hire a consultant to survey locations included in the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook published from 1936 to 1966 that helped African American travelers remain safe while crossing the country. It’s part of $23.4 million made available for similar preservation efforts across the country.


The money is generated through revenue from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf “lessening the loss of nonrenewable resources and benefiting the preservation of other irreplaceable resources, without using tax dollars,” according to the National Parks Service.


The guidebook was initially published by Victor H. Green, a New Jersey postal worker and civic leader, and was originally exclusive to New York City. The books would soon expand to include other states, including Michigan.The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) identified roughly 210 sites listed in the Green Books for consideration and research.

“Whether it be a gas station, rooming house, or resort, recreational and tourism-related properties are an integral part of the African American experience in Michigan, and receiving this grant will allow for a more complete understanding of that experience,” State Historic Preservation Officer Ryan Schumaker said in a statement. “The grant funding awarded to the African American Recreational Tourism and the Negro Motorist Green Book in Michigan project will deepen our understanding of this history.”

a two-story white building
A historic hotel in Woodland Park, Michigan. (Credit: Michigan State Historic Preservation Office)

With the support of the grant, the research will be documented in a comprehensive and historic statewide survey, as well as in a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nomination that will identify “significant themes, trends, time periods, people, and property types” using national Civil Rights context and guidance from the NPS,the SHPO said in the statement. 

The Green Book project is one of many across the country, including a grant given to Eastern Michigan University to document sites related to the Civil Rights movement on Detroit’s east side. 


“Since 2016, the National Park Service has provided over $126 million through this program to document, preserve and recognize the places and stories associated with the struggle for civil rights of African Americans,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in the statement.

This year’s award is the latest in a series of grants received by the Michigan SHPO from the parks service, all of which are intended to raise awareness of and to preserve sites related to historically underrepresented communities.

 “By identifying and celebrating these sites, the project aims to shed light on their historical importance and the role they’ve played in Michigan’s history.” Schumaker said.

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