Murfreesboro woman discovers family's Green Book history

Green Book site on Murfreesboro's State Street
Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 09:37:32-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — In February, we're proud to share stories for Black History Month. One woman was unaware her own family played an important role in local Black history. It's a story of uncovering history and the pride that comes from what is found.

It's only right Dorothy Orr would end up the family historian. Family couldn't be more important to her as you can see from the beautifully framed pictures of her children in her Murfreesboro home.

"High school pictures," Orr smiled, gesturing toward the pictures hanging from the wall. "This is my youngest daughter's picture."

She turned her attention to another picture, this one from the early part of the 1900s.

"Her name was Jane Baugh-Hoover," said Orr. The picture was of Orr's great-grandmother who ran a boarding house across Murfreesboro on State Street.

"She bought the home, a balance of $150 that she paid for, and she was debt-free," Orr said.

Orr's found out there's something truly special about her great-grandmother's house. In the Jim Crow era, Black travelers on the road would have to be wary of sundown towns, places where the laws enforced racial segregation. In the midst of this time, those Black travelers knew they'd arrived at refuge when they saw the home of Jane Baugh-Hoover.

"They had no other place to stay, and that was the perfect place to find shelter and comfort," said Orr.

In the years after Baugh-Hoover's death in 1928, Dorothy's grandparents — Garfield and Fannie Hoover — took over the house. It eventually became known as a listed site in the Green Book, a guide of safe places for Black travelers from the 1930s through the 60s. Orr had no idea about the house's Green Book history until she got a call from the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County.

"This was a strong woman of courage," said Orr. "She stepped outside the box. She was trying to help other people at that time. I wish I could have known her."

It's a still-standing Green Book site in Middle Tennessee just like a Natchez Street house in Franklin and the R&R Liquor Store on Jefferson Street. Many of the Green Book sites have been lost over time.

Baugh-Hoover's mother was a slave, and for her to start something to help Black travelers, that's something Orr is so grateful to know. After all, you never know what's in your family history.

We brought Orr a Green Book to see the listing herself.

"I know it's here," she said flipping through the pages. "Let's see."

"Oh my goodness," she said with a smile after finding the listing. "This is such a good feeling. It makes me very proud, very proud of my family."

NewsChannel 5 spoke with the people currently living in the Green Book house on State Street. They said they had no idea about the Green Book history when they started renting it.

Orr hopes the site will someday have a historical marker.