As she pored over the historic tidbits found on the cardboard fashioned to resemble a shoebox, Barbara Seldon’s enthusiasm piqued when she landed on a graphic depicting “The Negro Motorist Green Book.”
“There it is,” she squealed, reacting to a directory once used to helped blacks navigate the Jim Crow South. “If you traveled, it would tell you, you could stay at this person’s house or that person’s house.”
Seldon, 75, of Southfield, who serves on the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. task force, was eyeing a creation meant to emulate the shoeboxes that blacks used to tote food during the times of segregation. The History in a Box package, which is covered with short stories about trailblazers ranging from Satchel Paige to the Freedom Riders, was created by Beans & Cornbread restaurant to both re-enact the experience and educate during Black History Month.
Business typically grows during February from companies who celebrate the month by ordering in soul food, noted owner Patrick Coleman, but “we wanted to do more to honor history. This way we share both a bit of painful history as well as details about history makers.”
Seldon said the boxed lunch provides a living lesson because students can practically see what their ancestors did. “During the times of segregation, when African Americans were not allowed to eat in restaurants or certain sections of trains, we found a fantastic way of being able to travel and not get in trouble,” Seldon explained. “We’d have our own brown bags and our shoeboxes to carry our meals.”
Beans & Cornbread is donating 10 percent of each History in a Box lunch sale to Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation to support its youth education programs. Central Detroit Christian is a community organization that works to improve its neighborhood through youth, business and housing development.