Interviews & Inspiration: Curtis Graves


Without exception, the “cast members” we have interviewed so far for “The Green Chronicles” have each shared personal stories far beyond our expectations. What we thought would be one or two significant moments from each person turned into so many inspiring stories that will be challenging to include in one film!

Over time we will add excerpts and images from many of those stories. Heartfelt thanks to all of our interviewees for their interviews and inspiration.


Starting in 1967, Curtis Graves served for six years as the first African-American Representative in the Texas State Legislature since the 1870’s. Later he went on to a career for thirty years in administration at the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA). Throughout he has been an avid photographer as well as a musician and his photography gallery can be viewed at


Left: Curtis Graves’ school picture from New Orleans, 1945-46 / Right: UPI Newspaper photo with caption: “Rep. Curtis Graves of Houston, looks on as his 2-year-old daughter, Gretchen, talks on the telephone at his floor desk in the House of Representatives at Austin. The representatives have phones at their desks to keep in touch with their offices since secretaries aren’t allowed on the House floor.” (photos courtesy of Curtis Graves)

Growing up in New Orleans, Graves’ father and uncle were the first African-American owners of an ESSO gas station franchise in the state and he remembers using the Green Books sold there to plan vacations. Graves writes:

“Butsy and Buddy’s Service Station was opened about 1946 in New Orleans.  This was the day of the grand opening.  The two people to the left or my mother’s brother Butsy (Honore Haydel Sr.) and his wife.  My mother and father are on the right. My Uncle Butsy had worked for a white service station until his boss called him a nigger.  He and my dad opened up this station (the first owned by blacks in Louisiana) in about 5 months after the problem with my uncle and his boss.  My dad was teaching at a school for veterans and convinced the ESSO people to let them open a service station.” 
CG_Graves_Esso_Uncle_Butsy and Buddy

Above: Butsy and Buddy’s ESSO Service Station Grand Opening in 1946, New Orleans, LA (photo courtesy of Curtis Graves)

Both of Graves’ great grandparents were children of African American slaves and white slave masters, just north of New Orleans. He writes about the family history photographs:
“‘Echoes of Slavery’ is from my ‘Architecture of Enslavement’ collection and was taken on the Evergreen Plantation where my great grandmother, Celeste, was born, about 35 miles up river from New Orleans. The plantation still stands. She was the child of Pieri Becnel and a slave lady whose names we cannot find and a third cousin of Victor Haydel, my great grandfather, because her father and Victor’s father (Antoine Haydel) were second cousins.


Evergreen’s Big House is the house that my great grandmother must have seen.  This renovation was completed in the early 1800’s. The outside was changed from the Creole Cottage that was slave built in the early 1700’s. My great grandmother died in her 40’s in 1875 and my great grandfather died about 1920.  My great granddad came from the Whitney Plantation next door. We think it was an arranged marriage because slaves could not go courting. Josephine Honore Haydel was my mother’s mother. This was taken in New Orleans in 1900.  She was born in 1881 and was 19 when this picture was taken.  She died in New Orleans in 1972.  My mother was the only girl of the 4 children of Elphege and Josephine.”




Top left: Victor Haydel, born c. 1830 in Edgar, Louisiana / Top Right: Celeste B Haydel, born c. 1840 same town next door / Lower left: Their daughter-in-law, Josephine Honore Haydel  at age 19 in New Orleans, 1900 / Lower right: Mabel, Josephine’s daughter, and Joseph Graves in 1955, Curtis Graves’ parents (photos courtesy of Curtis Graves)

CG_Echoes_of_ Slavery_CGPhotoCG_Evergreen's_Big_House_CGPhoto

Left: “Echoes of Slavery” / Right:  “Evergreen’s Big House”, both from Evergreen Plantation, Louisiana (photos by Curtis Graves, Graves Fine Arts Photos)


8 thoughts on “Interviews & Inspiration: Curtis Graves

  1. Carolyn Graves Pate says:

    Dearest Curtis,

    Once again I would like to express how very proud I am of you! Throughout the years you have set an example of integrity, responsibility and achievement. You have continually given back, both to the African American Community, and to this Great Country we call America.

    As a member of your family not only do I love you but I salute you.

    Kudos cousin.

    Carolyn Graves Pate


    • Hello Ms. Pate,

      Thank you for being the first person to comment on our website! All of us working on the film feel honored to have met Curtis and are inspired for all the same reasons you are! Can’t wait to show our film trailer which we aiming to finish so we can post it sometime on Monday 9/2. As you can imagine, Curtis is an outstanding storyteller and adds so much to the project. Thank you again and let us know what you think about the trailer when you see it!

      — Becky


  2. Tim Graves says:

    Hello Mr. Graves. My name is Tim Graves and I worked at the LBB, Sunset Commission, and other jobs around the Texas Legislature from 1977-2013. Now retired, I am returning to my true life’s interest- photography. I have seen some of your photos on the web and found them excellent and intriguing. If you have any interest, I would enjoy visiting with you.


    • Hello Mr. Graves,

      Thanks for your interest in our film and website! I’m not sure when Curtis Graves will see your comment, so I will forward it to him in an email. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see our new trailer and know about the Indiegogo campaign we just launched yesterday. You can find links to both on the home page of this website. — Becky


  3. Wow this is so amazing!


  4. […] life has been recorded by one of her descendants, Curtis M. Graves, according to oral history of his grandfather, Elphége Haydel (1879 -1959). Graves’ story about […]


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February, 2019: In celebration of Black History Month, Calvin Alexander Ramsey was invited to give talks about his Green Book projects and our film at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, JetBlue, New City Hall, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass. (birthplace of W.E.B. DuBois)

February, 2019: Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s play, “Green Book”, was presented in Louisville, KY by the Bunbury Theatre Company and Tulsa, OK at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center

January-February 2019: “Cosmocean”, a short collaborative experimental animation visual music film by a diverse team of students from all over the world in one of Becky Wible Searles’ classes at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Atlanta was selected for screening at the London Experimental Film Festival and the Athens ANIMFest in Athens, Greece

November 18, 2018: Calvin Alexander Ramsey initiated and hosted the “First Annual Victor and Alma Green Appreciation Day” in Harlem at the Morris-Jumel Mansion (Manhattan’s Oldest House) with proclamations by Mayor Bill de Blasio and others

Watch this space for upcoming presentations by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Becky Wible Searles, and other events related to “The Green Book Chronicles”

News and Events ARCHIVE

April 5, 2018: Museum of Arts and Design, New York City (NY) “The Green Book Chronicles: Screening and Discussion with Calvin Alexander Ramsey” plus a Q and A session with Calvin, Becky, and Maira Liriano (Associate Chief Librarian of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)

March 1 – April 8, 2018: Museum of Arts and Design, New York City (NY) included new 13:00 sample edit of “The Green Book Chronicles” as part of their show, “Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America” as an on-going screening in their Learning Lounge.

March 1 – April 1, 2018: Pegasus Theatre, Chicago (IL) presentation of “The Green Book” play by Calvin Ramsey

March 22, 2018: Calvin Ramsey presentation with other children’s book writers at the 14th Annual National Black Writers Conference Youth Literacy Program “Healing, Legacy, and Activism” at Medgar Evers College / CUNY, Brooklyn, NY

November 17, 2017 – March 2018: Becky Wible Searles’ mixed-media xerography piece “Untitled” included in the Whitney Museum (NYC) show “Experiments in Electrostatics: Photocopy Work from the Whitney’s Collection, 1966-1986”

February 24, 2018: Revolution Books in Harlem hosts Calvin Ramsey for a presentation about “Ruth and the Green Book”

February 1, 2018: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati (OH) about Green Book projects, including progress on “The Green Book Chronicles”

November 28, 2017: Calvin Ramsey’s play, “Damaged Virtues: A Cry from Within” reading at the National Black Theatre, NYC about three slave women under the knife of Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “Father of Modern Gynecology.”

July 29, 2017: The APEX Award for Distinguished Service presented to Calvin Ramsey by “Black Meetings and Tourism” Magazine at the 4th Annual International Multicultural & Heritage Tourism Summit & Trade Show in Miami, July 2017.

March, 2017 issue of LOCALE PALATE: FOOD CULTURE OF THE SOUTH: “The Color of Safety: Calvin Alexander Ramsey Chronicles the History of the Green Book” by Jessie Howard with photo by Jimmy E. Searles

February 17-19, 2017: Calvin Ramsey’s “The Green Book” play presented to nearly sold-out audiences at Red Mountain Theatre, Birmingham AL; Keith Cromwell, Director /

December 2016: Shooting completed in NYC, including interviews with cultural documentarian, Candacy Taylor, Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; musicologist Dr. Albert Vollmer, leader/founder of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band; and Smitty’s Service Center in Newark, NJ, family-owned by African-Americans since the 1930’s.

July 14, 2016 “Reflections on the Green Book” at the MARCH ON WASHINGTON FILM FESTIVAL, US Navy Museum, Washington DC 6:30 – 9:00pm; Panel includes Calvin Alexander Ramsey and screening of new 20:00 Work-in-Progress excerpt from “The Green Book Chronicles”

May 31, 2016: Calvin Ramsey nominated for the NAACP NYCHA Just R.E.A.D. (Recognize Education Achieves Destiny) Literacy Development Endeavor Award for “Ruth and the Green Book”; Ceremony and celebration at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYC July 7, 2016

May 14, 2016: Fundraiser for “The Green Book Chronicles” sponsored by the Len Ragozin Foundation, NYC

April 2016: Calvin Ramsey and “The Green Book Chronicles” are featured in an article in Smithsonian Magazine by Jacinda Townsend: “How the Green Book Helped African-Americans Navigate a Segregated Nation”

February 12, 2016: “The Green Book Chronicles” received a production grant from the Len Ragozin Foundation, NYC

December 3, 2015: Calvin Ramsey was interviewed on the WUNC public radio show, “The State of Things”:

August 7, 2015: NEW YORK TIMES article by Eve M. Kahn featuring “The Green Book Chronicles”: “The ‘Green Book’ Legacy: A Beacon for Black Travelers”

August 6-9, 2015: NYC Interviews and Location Shooting for “The Green Book Chronicles” including the Jacob Lawrence “One Way Ticket” Show at the Museum of Modern Art; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and Minton’s

February 18, 2015: Calvin Ramsey presented progress on “The Green Book Chronicles” at the Brooklyn Historical Society (6:30pm)

January 18, 2015 (MLK Holiday): Calvin Ramsey reading of “Ruth and the Green Book” and book signing at the New York Historical Society, NYC

December 7, 2015: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Stanford L. Warren Library, Durham, NC

July 19, 2015 NEW YORK TIMES Travel Section: Feature article about Calvin Ramsey and the Green Book projects with the online version released 7/14/15

January 21, 2014: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, Bronx, NY

January 19, 2014: Calvin Ramsey at the North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC “Created Equal: Freedom Riders” film and guest speakers

August 13 – September 2, 2013: USA Today Special Edition about the March on Washington includes articles about the Green Book and Calvin Ramsey / See complete text in “Stories & Histories” above

September 1, 2013: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Studio Museum in Harlem “Target Free Sundays: Books and Authors, Kids!” / 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027

August 28, 2013: Article about Calvin Ramsey in the Washington Post:

August 26, 2013 @ 6:00 pm: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) honoring Victor Green / 100 Indiana Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

June 8, 2013: Calvin Ramsey interviewed on NPR’s “Travel with Rick Steves” / Archive available at



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