The Holiday Inn Southwest was located at 2649 Highway 80 West and was built in 1962. Its history is detailed in the latest issue of the Pearl Street CDC newsletter.
Below is an excerpt of the story.
Negros only had one choice, and that was to lodge with friends or families deemed as safe houses. “The Negro Motorist Green Book,“ the official travel and lodging guide listed businesses and places that welcomed Negro travelers during the period in history known as Jim Crow, when segregation in public places was the law.
James Seals, a member of Pearl Street African Methodist Episcopal Church, was one of the few employed. Upon returning home from the armed forces, Mr. Seals was hired by the Heidelberg Hotel as a waiter. Because of his professionalism, work ethics and values, he advanced and made a career in the field of hospitality management with the Holiday Inn. Mr. Seals being a trailblazer, graciously accepted Pearl Street CDC’s request to discuss the history of the Holiday Inn and its business climate during the Civil Right’s Era.
Historically, the Holiday Inn was the first hotel to welcome all, including blacks. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, the NAACP conducted accommodation tests at local hotels. Most hotels removed the segregated signs, “Whites Only” and “Colored Area;” however the Robert E. Lee Hotel chose to close its doors rather than comply with the Civil Rights law.
The Holiday Inn was connected with other companies across the United States and internationally. They did not turn anyone away, according to Seals. “The Holiday Inn operated with a standard of quality: the kitchen design was user friendly, the equipment was updated, rooms, linen and towels clean. Although a franchise during that period of time, Holiday Inn respected black men as men and offered career opportunities and a chance to provide for one’s family,” said Seals.
It was after the Holiday Inn Southwest hotel renovation in 1983, the addition of five (5) stories of guest rooms, meeting space, a new restaurant and lounge and conference rooms, that blacks began to host meetings and events at the Southwest Hwy 80 location.
To read the entire story by the Pearl Street CDC please click on their newsletter posted below.