Museum Monday: Esso Station Green Book Entry at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

Museum Monday is a weekly series where the museum of the month will highlight a different artifact from their collection.

Green Book Esso Gas Station
Photo provided by Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Started in 1936 by Harlem postman Victor Green, The Negro Motorist Green Book was a guide published over three decades that helped African Americans travel the country safely, and with dignity, during a time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. 

The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, known today as ExxonMobil, was the only major retail distributor of the Green Book through its network of Esso stations, which welcomed Black travelers and also provided business opportunities for Black franchisees. More than a third of Esso dealers in the 1940s were Black and the company employed Black people in other roles such as chemists, pipeline workers, mariners and other professional positions.

This image from Mosaic Templars Cultural Center’s collection shows an Esso Service Station located at 901 Locust Street in North Little Rock. A.C. Lewis opened the station in 1949 and was one of three African American franchisees in the state. The station was described as “small but tidy” in the Green Book, which called Lewis a “capable and efficient young business man who takes great pride, not only in the appearance of this station, but in rendering courteous service to all customers.”

MTCC is adding this image to the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit The Negro Motorist Green Book, which will be on display May 20 to Aug. 1. More information about the exhibition is available here


Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Photo courtesy of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

The mission of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is to preserve, interpret and celebrate African American history and culture in Arkansas. The museum’s exhibits highlight fraternal organizations and African American entrepreneurs, as well as integration. Admission is free and MTCC is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. MTCC is located at 501 W. Ninth Street in Little Rock.