Native and African American perspectives of Route 66

Posted in: Cultural Resources

Author at Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Rialto, California
Author at Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in Rialto, California

Until recently, the role of Native and African Americans was largely missing from the story of Route 66. The National Park Service is now providing missing perspectives and correcting common stereotypes about this iconic road.

Mead & Hunt helped document Route 66 in several states. As a member of the team, I worked on two projects documenting roadside architecture. It was a particularly exciting project as the National Register Nomination we completed led to its listing in the National Register in 2012.

During the project I stayed in one of several “wigwam motels” along the route. Each “roadside village” features a cluster of tipi-like structures, a common stereotype associated with Native Americans. A guidebook, American Indians and Route 66, reveals a true picture of the 30 tribes who lived along the historic route. Another great resource about Native Americans interaction with Route 66 is the Indian Country Media Network.

The hardship of segregation is another missing perspective of the history of Route 66. The NPS shares how race affected travel along Route 66. This project is based on “Green Books,” which listed businesses and lodging that welcomed African Americans and other minorities. wigwam-village-img_0022-300x200pxLegends of America describes the Green Book project and links to interviews about minority experiences along Route 66.

Kudos to the NPS Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for championing these efforts by partnering with organizations and providing grants to produce these studies.

Liz Boyer

About the Author

Liz Boyer specializes in historic and archival research, reconnaissance-level surveys and evaluation of National Register eligibility. Her experience includes Section 106, Section 4(f), HAER documentation, and NEPA compliance. She lives one block off Route 66 and states that she loves “hands-on history and finding new ways to experience a historic place.”

Read more posts by Liz Boyer

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