Local News

Youngstown motel considered historic safe space for black people

The Green Book was used between 1930-60 as a guide for black-friendly places

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - During the 1930s through the 1960s, there was a book called the Green Book. It helped black people find establishments across the country that would serve them, one of which is a motel on Youngstown's east side.

A movie was even made called "Green Book." It was about a black recording artist traveling in the south during the 1960s who used the Green Book.

If any black recording artist traveled to Youngstown from the 1930s to the 1960s, there was a good chance they stayed at the Wee Motel on McGuffey Road.

"In part because it was recognized as a place that was not only black-owned but it was black friendly," said Lewis Macklin, a neighborhood historian.

The Wee Motel printed its way into the Green Book along with other hotels, restaurants and night clubs that would accept black people.

"There were so many places that were closed to African Americans," said Sean Posey, who studies the history of the Green Book.

Posey saw the movie back in 2018 and says they left some information out.

"What they don't mention is that the Green Book was needed just as much in the north," he said.

According to Posey, Ohio had establishments that didn't serve or allow black people. If you stopped at those places on your trip, it could cost you your life.

"So you really needed a book like this to get around," Posey said.

"I remember the Wee Motel back in its hay day," Macklin said.

Macklin has lived near the Wee Motel his whole life.

"African Americans knew that it was a place that they could get good quality, safe lodging," Macklin said. "You would park and then you would just pull up and take your key and then just go into your room."

Being a part of the Green Book in the 1930s through the 1960s came with rules that everyone in the community had to follow.

"You see nothing, you say nothing and you respect those people who are patronizing," Macklin said.

The building may be run down...

"It's been forgotten about almost until recently," Posey said.

...but its history stands tall.

Posey says there is a nation-wide movement that wants to go around to different cities and figure out how to mark the establishments as historical landmarks or preserve them.

He says the Wee Motel would take a lot of money to renovate but they hope they can preserve it.

Youngstown had a variety of other establishments also included in the Green Book:

-- Hotel Allison (212 North West Ave.) -hotel
-- YMCA (962 W. Federal St.) -hotel
-- Rideuot (383 Lincoln Ave.) -hotel
-- McDonald (442 E. Federal St.) -hotel
-- Royal Palms (625 Hemrod) -hotel
-- Gold Inn (851 W. Federal St.) -hotel
-- Mohoning (3411 Nelson Ave.) -hotel
-- Belmont, 327 Belmont Ave.) -tourist home
-- "Y" (962 Federal St.) -restaurant
-- Central (137 S. Center) -restaurant
-- Bagnet (316 Covington) -restaurant
-- Harris (701 W. Rayen Ave.) - barber shop
-- Renee's (321 E. Federal St.) -beauty parlor
-- Francine (427 W. Chicago Ave.) -beauty parlor
-- State (180 E. Broadman) -tavern
-- H. V. Walker (371 E. Federal St.) -tailor
-- Underwood (543 5th Ave.) -garage
-- 40 Club (399 and 369 E. Federal St.) -night club
-- West Side Social (552 W. Federal St.) -night club
-- A. A. Social (703 W. Rayen Ave.) -night club