You can read about history, or you can learn about Arizona history from those who lived it.

"There were certain areas we could not go," says Maurice Ward, a member of the Elk's Lodge in central Phoenix.

His friend Virgil Turman, also a member of the Elk's Lodge, talked to us about living in Phoenix during segregation.

"Back then, people didn't go anywhere north of Van Buren. You would have to be pushing a lawn mower or have a uniform on," Turman said.

It's hard to imagine that segregation existed in Arizona less than 100 years ago.

As black families fled the Jim Crow South for a better life out west, they soon realized Arizona was also deeply rooted in racism.

Former Arizona Governor Benjamin Moer held a news conference in 1935, fearing black people would settle in Arizona.

"As governor of Arizona, I do not suppose to allow this state to be a dumping ground," Moer said at the time.

We were invited to spend time with the leaders of the Elk's Lodge, who are all in their 70s. All of them suffered discrimination simply because of the color of their skin.

"The bus station restaurant was not segregated, and that's where we could go and eat at the restaurant," Ward says, reflecting back to his childhood.

He was born in the 1930s and grew up in Phoenix. The only restaurant his family was allowed to dine at was at the local train station.

His good friend Arthur Whitmore remembers being kicked out of the local drug store.

"The drug store down there, we would try to sit at the counter and eat, and they wouldn't serve us," Whitmore said.

Phoenix public schools were also segregated. It was one of the darkest times in history.

"They put the black kids in the cottages on the same campus as the white kids. The white kids went into the buildings and the blacks went to the cottages," Ward said.

Surviving segregation wasn't easy. At times, it was dangerous especially for black people traveling through Arizona because many towns didn't allow blacks to be on the streets after the sunset. They were known as sundown towns.

Donald Guillory is an African American historian, author and ASU professor.

"Scottsdale and Tucson had a few areas where it was closed off whether you were black, Jewish, or Asian," Guillory said.

Guillory remembers famous sports athletes were also banned from white hotels.

"One example that I can think of is with Pumpsie Green with Boston Red Sox 1959. He was here with the team for spring training in Scottsdale. He couldn't even stay with the team. He actually had to stay in a black hotel like the Swindall Inn during spring training. He was shuttled 17 miles from Phoenix to Scottsdale every day and every night just for spring training because he wasn't welcome in any of the hotels in Scottsdale," Guillory said.

Fear of violence inspired a survival guide called The Green Book.

It listed safe places for blacks to go, like barber shops, beauty parlors, restaurants, and hotels. Most of the places that welcomed blacks were located on Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix.

The Swindall Tourist Inn was one of a handful of hotels where blacks could stay overnight. It's also one of the few pieces of black history that still stands.

"You have a place to sleep. Food is readily available. You can rest and relax. It worked like today's version of Air BnB," Guillory said.

The Swindall Inn is now home to an accounting firm. A few pieces of the original structure were preserved including the original wood doors.

We went on a mission stopping by every Phoenix address listed in the 1939 publication of The Green Book to see what it looks like today.

All of the original beauty parlors, barber shops, drug stores that are listed in The Green Book are gone. They've been wiped out as part of revitalization through the years to build places like Chase Field.

We stumbled across a home built in the 1920s for one of the early African-American Phoenix families. 1412 E. Jefferson St. has clearly been neglected.

Historians fear it too will vanish just like so much of Arizona's black history.

The Elk's Lodge is listed in The Green Book as a safe nightclub for black people. Whitmore spends his afternoon's at The Elk's. He has since the 1950s.

"I remember all the great athletes that used to come here. That's one of the highlights for me. All of them came here. Even black actors in the movies come here," Whitmore said.

The Elk's Lodge on 7th Avenue was built as a bomb shelter during World War II. It eventually became a safe haven for black professionals in the fight for civil rights.

"This is why it's historical. This is the foundation in Phoenix, Arizona where the blacks congregated. They met here. They did everything here," Whitmore said.

These men are all part of a brotherhood. They stood by each other during the dark days of segregation. They stand together to this day because they realize how important it is for this new generation to understand what the old generation lived through.

Ward says he may be getting old, but he understands the power of social media. He plans to get online to grab the attention of younger black men and women.

"Nowadays with social media like Facebook and Twitter, kids can do a whole lot more than we could. What I want is that we be able to develop opportunities for younger people to have them learn about the history and about opportunities about their future and their future jobs," Ward said.


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