SAY WHAT YOU WILL about “Green Book,” this year’s big Oscar winner. It’s just another “white savior” movie. It’s a marginally more updated version of the tone-deaf pleasantries in 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” which was old-fashioned even 30 years ago.
And sure, numerous other films in 2018 hit a more appropriate note in terms of telling stories about race in America: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Blindspotting,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “The Hate U Give,” “Sorry to Bother You” and of course, “Black Panther.”
But the importance of “Green Book” extends beyond its predictable plotline. What it did was put a spotlight on those old, cobwebbed hotels and restaurants across America listed in “The Green Book,” the guide for black travelers looking for safe spaces during the dark days of Jim Crow.
The Historic Magnolia House in Greensboro, which sits on Gorrell Street at the edge of downtown, is an icon of the “Green Book” era. When I talked to Sam Pass, the former FedEx employee who made it his mission two decades ago to restore the former Magnolia Hotel, the passion in his voice was palpable.
“I knew its significance, I knew how important this house was to the community,” Pass tells me in this month’s "1808" cover story. “And I wanted to bring it back to life.”
When we think of restoring or renovating old structures — whether a home, office building, barn or warehouse — we think of the physical process. But so much more goes into repairing old spaces. Reparations also must be done to the soul of a home or building.
“Green Book” may not have been the best movie of 2018, but it challenged us to look at old things with a new lens. And that’s what this issue is all about: taking old, cold spaces and bringing the light back.