Imagine trudging into a hotel with your family at midnight — after a long, grueling drive — and being turned away by a clerk who “loses” your reservation when he sees your black face.
This was a common hazard for members of the African-American elite in 1932, the year Dr. B. Price Hurst of Washington, D.C., was shut out of New York City’s Prince George Hotel despite having confirmed his reservation by telegraph.
Hurst would have planned his trip differently had he been headed to the South, where “whites only” signs were ubiquitous and well-to-do black travelers lodged in homes owned by others in the black elite. Hurst was a member of Washington’s “Colored Four Hundred” — as the capital’s black upper crust once was known — and was familiar with having to plan his life around hotels, restaurants and theaters in the city, and throughout the Jim Crow South, that screened out people of color.