WTVF: Murfreesboro Woman Discovers Family's Green Book History

One woman was unaware her own family played an important role in Tennessee's Black history.
Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 08, 2022

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, Tennessee home. She says you never know what's in your family history.

Jane Baugh-Hoover was Orr's great-grandmother who ran a boarding house across Murfreesboro on State Street. 

"She bought the home," Orr said. "A balance of $150.00 that she paid for and she was debt free." But Orr just 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, which were places where the laws enforced racial segregation. Back then, those Black travelers knew they'd arrived at refuge when they saw this house, the home of Jane Baugh-Hoover. 

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

In the years after Baugh-Hoover's death in 1928, Orr's grandparents — Garfield and Fannie Hoover — took over the house, which eventually became known as a listed site in the Green Book. The Green Book is 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, not until she got a call two years ago from the African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County.  

"This was a strong woman of courage," Orr said of her great-grandmother. "She stepped outside the box. She was trying to help other people at that time" 

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

"I know it's here," Orr said. "Let's see." 

NewsChannel 5 brought Orr a Green Book to see the listing herself. Baugh-Hoover passed away several years before Orr was born. 

"I wish I could have known her," Orr said.

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

"Oh my goodness. This is such a good feeling," Orr said. "It makes me very proud. Very proud of my family."

The story was originally published by Forrest Sanders on newschannel5.com