Until the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the Green Book was critical for black Americans wanting to travel across the country.
Road tripping in the 20th century became an iconic American obsession, and the rising middle class was eager to travel the country on the new interstate highway system. The Green Book was a unique travel guide during this time, when segregation was practiced all over the country.
The book, which grew to cover locations in all 50 states, listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, beauty salons, and other services that would reliably serve African Americans. The listings grew from user correspondence and a network of African American postal workers under the guidance of Victor Hugo Green, the book’s publisher.
The American road trip would go on to be an anchor in the civil rights discussion, as it highlighted the injustices and prejudice that African Americans suffered under Jim Crow. Before the Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination in public accommodations, Victor Green’s booklet helped black Americans navigate their country.
When the church doors open, only white people will be allowed inside.
That’s the message the Asatru Folk Assembly in Murdock, Minnesota, is sending after being granted a conditional use permit to open a church there and practice its pre-Christian religion that originated in northern Europe.
Despite a council vote officially approving the permit this month, residents are pushing back against the decision.
Opponents have collected about 50,000 signatures on an online petition to stop the all-white church from making its home in the farming town of 280 people.
“I think they thought they could fly under the radar in a small town like this, but we’d like to keep the pressure on them,” said Peter Kennedy, a longtime Murdock resident. “Racism is not welcome here.”
Many locals said they support the growing population of Latinos, who have moved to the area in the past decade because of job opportunities, over the church.
“Just because the council gave them a conditional permit does not mean that the town and people in the area surrounding will not be vigilant in watching and protecting our area,” Jean Lesteberg, who lives in the neighboring town of De Graff, wrote on the city’s Facebook page.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Asatru Folk Assembly as a “neo-Volkisch hate group” that couches “their bigotry in baseless claims of bloodlines grounding the superiority of one’s white identity.”
Many residents call them a white supremacist or white separatist group, but church members deny it.
“We’re not. It’s just simply not true,” said Allen Turnage, a folk assembly board member. “Just because we respect our own culture, that doesn’t mean we are denigrating someone else’s.”
The group, based in Brownsville, California, says teachings and membership are for those of strictly European bloodlines.
The church was looking for a new church in the eastern North Dakota region when they came across Murdock. It’s unknown how many members they have worldwide or how many people will attend the new church.
“We do not need salvation. All we need is freedom to face our destiny with courage and honor,” the group wrote on its website about their beliefs. “We honor the Gods under the names given to them by our Germanic/Norse ancestors.”
Their forefathers, according to the website, were “Angels and Saxons, Lombards and Heruli, Goths and Vikings, and, as sons and daughters of these people, they are united by ties of blood and culture undimmed by centuries.”
“We respect the ways our ancestors viewed the world and approached the universe a thousand years ago,” Turnage said.
Murdock council members said they do not support the church but were legally obligated to approve the permit, which they did in a 3-1 decision.
“We were highly advised by our attorney to pass this permit for legal reasons to protect the First Amendment rights,” Mayor Craig Kavanagh said. “We knew that if this was going to be denied, we were going to have a legal battle on our hands that could be pretty expensive.”
City Attorney Don Wilcox said it came down to free speech and freedom of religion.
“I think there’s a great deal of sentiment in the town that they don’t want that group there,” he said. “You can’t just bar people from practicing whatever religion they want or saying anything they want as long as it doesn’t incite violence.”
The farming town about a 115-mile drive west of Minneapolis is known for producing corn and soybeans, which are shipped across the country. Latinos make up about 20 percent of Murdock’s small population. Many are day laborers from Mexico and Central America, city officials said.
“We’re a welcoming community,” Kennedy said, rejecting the Asatru Folk Assembly’s exclusionary beliefs. “That’s not at all what the people of Murdock feel. Nobody had a problem with the Hispanics here.”
The AFA purchased its building this year on property in a residential zone. Constructed as a Lutheran church before the zoning was changed, it was later converted to a private residence. The folk assembly needed the permit to convert the residence back to a church.
“It’s ironic the city council didn’t want to commit discrimination against the church, but the church is discriminating against Blacks,” said Abigail Suiter, 33, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “It’s very telling of where the priority is and whose lives matter.”
Prominent lawyers disagree on the council’s options heading into the vote. Some of the debate centered on the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects religious institutions and churches from unduly burdens and discriminatory land-use regulations.
Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, said the council might have been able to prevent the private sale of the property, had it known about it, through laws focused on forbidding racial discrimination in property transactions.
“No institution that proposes to exclude people on account of race is allowed to run an operation in the state of Minnesota,” Tribe said.
Kavanagh said he stands by the council vote “for legal reasons only.”
“The biggest thing people don’t understand is, because we’ve approved this permit, all of a sudden everyone feels this town is racist, and that isn’t the case,” he said. “Just because we voted yes doesn’t mean we’re racist.”
For the cruise liner industry, the COVID-19 pandemic officially began on March 14. That’s when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no sail” order on all cruise ships operating in US waters. At that point thousands of people were falling ill on various ships around the world, pitching the industry into damage control. From there, individual companies suspended cruises one by one, putting the industry on hold.
We spoke to a man named Jeff Birmingham about what it’s like being one of 99 people onboard a stationary cruise ship designed for 6,000. Jeff describes being alone for most of the day and how the industry is faring from an insider perspective.
Tell us about where you are at the moment. I’m offshore of Singapore in what I can only describe as the biggest ship parking lot I’ve ever seen. My contract is through February of next year and I’m not sure if I’ll touch dry land before then. As of now, we’ve been told not to expect that.
How does it feel to be on an almost empty cruise liner? It’s surreal. This ship was built to host thousands of people and I’ve spent years on this ship experiencing it as it was designed. But walking around now, the ship feels lifeless and empty. It’s in stasis waiting for the world to sort itself out so it can go back to what it’s designed to do. Everything is shut down, lights are off, furniture is covered up. It’s a ghost ship.
What do you do everyday? Is there enough work to keep you busy or do you get bored? I’m not really ever bored. My department usually has about 150 people but now it’s just me to deal with all the paperwork and inspections. It’s an overwhelming amount of work keeping the ship in the kind of condition it needs to stay in so it can go back into service. Plus, since there is very little to do socially the work basically takes all my time. I’ve been here over a month and it feels like I just got here.