Black-owned hotel razed; was safe haven during segregation

Apr 25, 2023, 1:49 PM

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi hotel that gave Black travelers safe lodging during segregation and once welcomed such notables as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been torn down after falling into disrepair after years of sitting vacant.

The E.F. Young Jr. Hotel was opened in 1946 in Meridian by E.F. Young Jr., a Black entrepreneur and manufacturer of hair care products. It remained open as a hotel until 1978, before being converted to office space and later going vacant.

A small crowd watched Monday as a crew demolished the building, the Meridian Star reported. The owners said in local news reports that the building had deteriorated and was too costly to rehabilitate.

Over the years, the hotel hosted a number of notable people including the civil rights leader King, singer Ella Fitzgerald, the Harlem Globetrotters and others.

After the building deteriorated while sitting vacant, the city deemed it a safety hazard in September 2021. The Young family continued to own the hotel and decided to demolish it after seeing high estimates for restoration and repair, the newspaper reported.

Democratic state Rep. Charles Young Jr. of Meridian, a grandson of E.F. Young, told Jackson’s WLBT-TV in February that the hotel was one of the few places in the Deep South state for Black travelers to stay during segregation.

“The only way that people could communicate was by word-of-mouth limited telephone, and they had what is called a Green Book,” Young said, adding the hotel was listed there as “one of the premier places to stay in the South.”

The Green Book was published starting in the mid-1930s and listed hotels, gas stations, restaurants and other businesses across the U.S. that accommodated Black motorists during segregation.

The 30-room Young Hotel had barber and beauty shops on the first floor and hotel rooms on the second. “It had bridal suites. It had enclosed and private bathrooms. It was a very nice and modern facility,” Young said of the hotel’s heyday.

The hotel thrived for decades, but circumstances changed. Young told WLBT-TV that during the 1970s, his grandmother, Velma Beal Young, chose to convert the building into a marketing and sales offices for the hair care manufacturing company. The company later moved its offices to a different site in Meridian.

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Black-owned hotel razed; was safe haven during segregation