Spotlight: Curtis Graves

8

Without exception, each of the “cast members” we have interviewed for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES have 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 it will be challenging if not impossible to include all of them in one film! Heartfelt thanks to all those in front of the camera for their interviews and inspiration.

Below Curtis Graves shares more about his personal background, ranging from his family ancestry on the Evergreen Plantation up river from New Orleans to his father and uncle being the first African-Americans to own an ESSO gas station in Louisiana to Graves serving in the Texas State Legislature and beyond, coming full circle with his photography series, “Echoes of Slavery”:

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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 http://www.gravesfineartphotos.webs.com.

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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 photo was taken on 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.” 
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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 his family history photography series:
“‘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.”

 

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Top left: Victor Haydel, born c. 1830 in Edgar, Louisiana / Top Right: Celeste B Haydel, born c. 1840 in the 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)

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

8 thoughts on “Spotlight: 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

    Like

    • 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

      Like

  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.

    Like

    • 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

      Like

  3. Wow this is so amazing!

    Like

  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 […]

    Like

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NEWS and EVENTS

Coming in JANUARY 2020:

January 23 through February 23, 2020: Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s “The Green Book” at the Ensemble Theatre, Houston TX. For more information, visit https://ensemblehouston.com/show/the-green-book-01-22-2020

Recent News / OCTOBER 2019

October 2 and 3, 2019: Calvin’s stage play, “The Green Book” at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center, Decatur, GA. Visit AltantaBTF.org for more information.

Sunday, October 13, 2019 at 2:30pm: The Harrison Museum of African American Culture in Roanoke VA presents “The Incomparable Artistry of Calvin Ramsey” at the Trinkle Theatre at Center in the Square, including a book signing and reception. For information and tickets visit https://harrisonmuseum.com/sunday-oct-13th-230-pm-the-incomparable-artistry-of-calvin-ramsey/

Saturdays (date/time TBA): Calvin debuts his new weekly radio show, “Green Book Nation” on WMCA AM 570. The program will broadcast good news and accomplish-ments from our past to the present as our Green Book projects continue.

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

September 28, 2019: The Santa Monica History Museum, Santa Monica CA presented “Discover the History: The Green Book” featuring Gloria and Solomon Herbert of Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine/Media, co-creators of the NEW Green Book digital travel directory and podcast, and Jo Kieta of Nubian Tours, sharing her experiences using the Green Books as a travel coordinator for Motown performers. We are thrilled to have interviewed the Herberts for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES. The Museum screened a 13:00 excerpt from our film at this free event made possible by the California Historic Route 66 Association. For more information, visit https://santamonicahistory.org/upcoming-activities-programs/discover-the-history-the-green-book/

September 18, 2019: The Arts Council of Princeton NJ presented a lecture about the Green Book by Calvin as part of a fundraiser for the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society. For more information visit www.towntopics.com/wordpress/2019/09/04/calvin-a-ramsey-to-present-w-j-historical-society-lecture/?fbclid=IwAR2XHlrE3ffFXKINOO3yu2CQx4WtIvkwaE4OhqZv-8E__ZN_S3DKax6RZDE

September 1, 2019: Philadelphia Museum of  Art: Calvin read his children’s book, “Belle, the Last Mule of Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story” as part of Meet the Author Storytime in conjunction with the exhibition Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South

August 28, 2019: New Haven CT: Presentation about the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey at the Stetson Branch Public Library

August 3, 2019: Roanoke VA: The Dumas Legacy Ball presents “An Evening with Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Green Book Author / Playwright” celebrating the Dumas Hotel, listed for many years in the Green Books and currently a community center. One of the few surviving Green Book sites.

July 30, 2019: Harry Belafonte 115th Street Library Branch of the New York Public Library NYC: “Hidden Figures Behind the Green Book” presentation by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

June 30, 2019: Harper’s Ferry WV: Calvin Alexander Ramsey book signing at the 75th Anniversary of Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park and Storrer College. Also further research and development for Calvin’s play about John Brown to be presented in 2020.

May 24, 2019: Baltimore MD: Multi-Cultural Book Fair and Festival, Cherry Hill Library reading and Green Book presentation by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

May 15, 2019: Workers Unite Film Festival NYC: Staged concert reading of “The Green Book” play by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

February, 2019: In celebration of Black History Month, Calvin Alexander Ramsey presented 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 MA (birthplace of W.E.B. DuBois)

February 2019: GSUTV in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting featured Becky Wible Searles in their half hour “Indie Filmmakers” series focusing on her background as a mixed-media artist / filmmaker and development of “The Green Book Chronicles” / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuaw3kfYzIw

February, 2019: Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s play, “The 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 NYC (Manhattan’s Oldest House) with proclamations by Mayor Bill de Blasio and others

April 5, 2018: Museum of Arts and Design NYC “THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES: Screening and Discussion with Calvin Alexander Ramsey” plus a Q and A session with Calvin, Becky Wible Searles, 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 NYC 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 Alexander Ramsey http://pegasustheatrechicago.org/productions/the-green-book/

March 22, 2018: Calvin Alexander Ramsey presentation with other children’s book writers at the 14th Annual National Black Writers Conference Youth Literacy Program “Healing, Legacy, and Activism”, 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 NYC hosted Calvin Alexander Ramsey for a presentation about “Ruth and the Green Book”

February 1, 2018: Calvin Alexander Ramsey presentation at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati OH about Green Book projects, including progress on THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES

December 2017: Interviews and location filming for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES in Myrtle Beach SC focused on Charlie’s Place / Fitzgerald’s Motel, listed in the Green Books and the grass roots movement to restore it as a community center, spearheaded by local musician and activist, Herbert Riley. Additional interviews about Charlie’s Place included Patricia Burgess, Dino Thompson, and City Council Member, Mike Chestnut, as well as resident, John Maloney, sharing memories of Washington DC’s famous U Street District.

November 28, 2017: Calvin Alexander 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.”

September 2017: Interviews and location filming for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES in Washington DC including Gloria and Solomon Herbert, publishers of Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine/Media Company the Green Book exhibit at the National Museum of African American History, and the historic U Street District.

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

July 2017: Interviews and location shooting for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES in Birmingham AL focusing on the A. G. Gaston Motel, listed in the Green Books and Civil Rights history landmark. Interviews included Civil Rights “Foot Soldier”, Bishop Charles Wallace Woods, author and Gaston historian, Marie  Sutton. Charles Woods III of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, as well as Keith Cromwell, director of the recent production of “The Green Book” by Calvin Alexander Ramsey at the Red Mountain Theatre along with actress, Winter Shepherd.

March, 2017 issue of The Local 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 Alexander Ramsey’s “The Green Book” play presented to nearly sold-out audiences at Red Mountain Theatre, Birmingham AL; Keith Cromwell, Director / redmountaintheatre.org

December 2016: Filming in NYC for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES, including interviews with cultural documentarian, Candacy Taylor, Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library), 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; Panel included 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” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/history-green-book-african-american-travelers-180958506/

February 12, 2016: THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES received a production grant from the Len Ragozin Foundation NYC

December 3, 2015: Calvin Ramsey interviewed on the WUNC North Carolina Public Radio show, “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/green-book-chronicleshttp://wunc.org/post/green-book-chronicles

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” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/07/arts/design/the-green-book-legacy-a-beacon-for-black-travelers.html?_r=0

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 (division of the New York Public Library), and Minton’s Playhouse (the Birthplace of Bebop)

February 18, 2015: Calvin Ramsey presented progress on THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES at the Brooklyn Historical Society

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: March on Washington includes articles about the Green Book and Calvin Ramsey / See complete text in the “USA Special Edition” tab above

September 1, 2013: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the Studio Museum in Harlem NYC “Target Free Sundays: Books and Authors, Kids!” studiomuseum.org

August 28, 2013: Article about Calvin Ramsey in the WASHINGTON POST www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/road-guide-for-african-american-civil-rights-activists-pointed-way-to-1963-march/2013/08/27/1085a2c4-0f64-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html

August 26, 2013: Calvin Ramsey presentation at the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), Washington DC honoring Victor Green

June 8, 2013: Calvin Ramsey interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) show “Travel with Rick Steves” / Archive available at www.ricksteves.com/radio/program-archives.cfm

Summer 2012: Initial interviews filmed for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Atlanta campus with the goal of making a short film with a mostly student and professor crew from the Animation, TV Producing (Film/Video), Motion Media, and Illustration Departments. Interviews included Curtis Graves, Shirley Henderson Coleman, Gary Kirksey, Dr. Joyce and Wilbert Verrett, Wellington Cox Howard III, and Phillis Holliday.

February 2012: The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta GA world premiere of “Ruth and the Green Book”, a live performance with puppets and animated projections adapted for the stage from Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s children’s book of the same name by Artistic Director, Jon Ludwig, with original music by S. Renee Clark, supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. As a professor of Animation at SCAD Atlanta, Becky Wible Searles took a group of Animation students to see the performance and met Calvin, eventually leading to their collaboration on THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES starting in the summer of 2012. (The decision was made to convert the project to a one hour film with a professional crew in 2014.)

August – September 2011: Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s original stage play for adults, “The Green Book”, premiered at Theatrical Outfit, Atlanta GA. This full production was preceded by several staged readings at La MaMa E.T.C. in New York and Baltimore Hebrew University, co-sponsored by the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP, the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Civil Rights leader, Julian Bond, was cast in a cameo role as Victor Green when the production moved on to a reading at the restored Lincoln Theater in Washington DC.

June 2004: Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s original play, “The Green Book”, was named a finalist in the 12th Annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska where it was critiqued by theatrical luminaries including Edward Albee and Patricia Neal.

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