Visiting the Hotel Metropolitan

Aneeza Ali, Newswriter

As a member of the Student Equity and Advisory Council, I had the opportunity to visit the Hotel Metropolitan, a  historical building that carries so much significance in establishing our community. I was surprised that I had never heard of this place and would like to share some information about it with the students of Paducah Tilghman High School.

The Hotel Metropolitan was established in 1908. It was the only hotel at the time that housed African Americans during the 20th century. The hotel was opened by Maggie M. Steed and Mamie Burbridge Guise until 1896. It housed many performers such as Thurgood Marshall, Ella Fitzgerald and B.B King. Why do we never hear about this place?

The hotel was restored in 1999 after its closing at the turn of the century. It contains stories of people who have stayed in each room. The walls are covered with pictures, quotes and history. The rooms are completely restored, with authentic bedding and historical items. Being taken through each room is an experience, as the director, Betty Dobson, plays the character of Maggie Steed as she describes the horrific stories of racism during the century.

As Maggie took us throughout the hotel, she shared the story of the brown paper bags. During the 20thcentury, African Americans were robbed of having an education. To determine who was to attend school and who was not, officials administered the “paper bag” test. If students’ skin was lighter than the bag, they were able to attend school. If their skin was darker than the paper bag, then they were not allowed to attend school.

Race aside, the hotel is an amazing piece of history. You can stand in the same room as B.B. King once stood, as well as other influential African Americans. Touring the hotel is only available by appointment only. The hotel truly touched me, giving me a piece of history that I will forever cherish.