For Black History Month this year, Near west Side partners would like to highlight historical moments that transpired right here in our very own neighborhood. These moments in time helped shape the society that we live in today, and were key to advancements for the civil rights of African-Americans in this country. Today our focus will be on Westside Church of God in Christ, one of the earliest black Pentecostal churches in Milwaukee.
The industrialization and Urbanization of the United States was largely built around the automobile. So much so that ownership of a car to drive around and travel with became a part of the American Dream. With the emergence of the African-American middle class during the early 1900s, Black car ownership became more and more common. Giving African-Americans the opportunity to travel the country. However, with Jim Crow laws in effect in much of the south, and lawful racial discrimination openly accepted across the country, there were many places that were not safe for African-Americans.
In 1936, New York City Mailman Victor H. Green published The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for African-Americans that pointed them towards businesses that were friendly towards African-Americans, helping them avoid the very prevalent racism that was all too common at the time. The first edition of what was more commonly known as The Green Book only covered New York, but every edition that followed expanded its coverage until all 50 states were covered. Wisconsin was given its own Green Book, advising African-Americans on which businesses they should go to in order to be treated fairly. It even covered Churches, and included Westside Church of God in Christ, one of the earliest black Pentecostal Churches in Milwaukee that was located right here in the Near West Side.
Pictured above: The cover of the 1950 edition of Wisconsin’s Green Book