It was the 1930’s and times were changing. Though African Americans were no longer suffering under slavery, they were by no means on equal ground with their fellow Americans. Was there any hope of escape? As writer George Schuyler said in 1930, “all Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult." By taking to the open road, an African American could seek out friendlier pastures. But how would one know where to find safe harbor in Jim Crow America? Enter The Negro Travelers' Green Book.
Created by New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green, the Book served as an overview of restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and tourist homes that were friendly to African American motorists. In a time where walking into the wrong business could mean humiliation or even physical harm, the Book was an invaluable resource. In the 1948 edition, three tourist homes were listed in Phoenix, Arizona. Out of these three, the Swindall Tourist Inn is the only one still standing to this day.
The Inn was originally constructed in 1914 as a private residence for the Steyaert family. In 1920, Mrs. Steyart began housing boarders and it soon became common knowledge that she would open her doors to African American travelers. In 1940, the Swindalls purchased the building and continued this policy for decades, even after the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Though the building fell into disrepair after the owners passed away, it was acquired by the Desert Mashie golf club in 1993, who preserved the building and now use it for office space.
Today, the Swindall Tourist Inn serves as a local look into a nationwide movement, reminding us that even in times of strife, we can all show a little decency to our fellow man.