Honoring the rich history of the E.F. Young Hotel, one of the only hotels in MS where African Americans could stay

Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 11:13 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Did you know there was a time in Mississippi when you couldn’t rent a hotel room because of the color of your skin?

It was an alarming and unsettling reality that one businessman in Meridian, wanted to change.

E.F. Young Jr. was a successful entrepreneur who made waves in the hair business.

However, one of his biggest accomplishments came about in 1941 when he built and opened up the E.F. Young Jr. Hotel.

The historic hotel served as a safe haven for thousands of African Americans.

“It was the only place to stay for people of color in a 90-mile radius of Meridian,” said Charles Young Jr., Young’s grandson. “Minorities didn’t have places they could stay during that time. If you didn’t sleep in your car or with a friend, you didn’t have any accommodations.”

It didn’t take long for word to spread about the new place welcoming African Americans with open arms.

“The only way that people could communicate was by word-of-mouth limited telephone, and that had what is called a Green Book,” said Young. “In that Greenbook, E.F. Young Jr. Hotel was listed as one of the premier places to stay in the south.” Each day, people were coming in and out of the hotel.

African Americans were thankful to have a place accepting them for who they are.

“Harlem Globetrotters, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Leontyne Price, any and everybody stayed at the E.F. Young Jr. Hotel,” Young recalled.

The successful businessman built the hotel at a cost of $100,000 hotel.

The 30-room establishment catered to the needs of African Americans… On the first floor, there were beauty and barbershops where people could get their hair done, and the second floor is where the hotel rooms were.

“It was a state-of-the-art hotel,” Young described. “It had bridal suites; it had enclosed and private bathrooms. It was a very nice and modern facility.”

The hotel not only housed African Americans, but it also provided them with jobs giving, them a way to earn an honest living.

After thriving and providing a comforting stay for African Americans for so many years, things eventually started changing. In the 70s, Young said the hotel began making a transition.

A transition that no longer reflected what the hotel once represented.

As a result, his grandmother, Velma Beal Young, stepped in and did what she thought was best for the business.

“She believed in Christian and being Christian, so if you wanted to come rent a room for an hour, that just wasn’t going to sit well with her,” Young expressed. “She made a decision as that type of business was ever increasing, that she didn’t want to continue being in the hotel business, so we converted hotel space into a sales office, and marketing offices for the manufacturing company.”

If you drive by the hotel today, pieces of the past still remain, but it’s far from the building it used to be when it first opened.

The building is crumbling due to its aging infrastructure. Young said things got this way after the city did a street renovation project where a contractor came in and dug trenches around the properties in order to build sidewalks.

”We don’t know what the intent was, but they left those trenches open for months and months and months,” said Young. “With those types of holes around the foundation, the slabs are going to shift, when those foundations shift, then the walls are going to change, when the walls start to move, the roofs are going to collapse, and you’re past the point of no return at that point.”

This symbolic landmark that’s filled with a rich history is now set to be demolished.

The family said it will cost too much to try and preserve the hotel, which is listed and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

The family is moving forward with plans to demolish the building. It’s expected to be torn down within the next two months.

Although the building will soon be coming down, Young said the memories, joy, and pride the hotel gave to the African American community will always be here to stay.

”People come in from out of state and all across the country even now to look at the property and to take photographs of the property, and as I said it’s on the national register, and there’s a cornerstone on the building that list that, so they love taking pictures there also,” said Young.

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