A very historical and popular movie that came out in 2018, received a few Oscars was entitled The Green Book.
The setting of this drama takes place during the era of Jim Crow and segregation. It was during a time when African-Americans could not stay in the same hotels or eat at the same restaurants as whites. As a young boy, I remember having to go to the windows or the side back doors that were designated for blacks to purchase and receive food. We could not go inside and definitely, we could not sit down and eat. There are some who disapprove of bringing up the ugliness of the days of Jim Crow and believe that those days (when bigotry and racism reigned) would be better left in the past to never be mentioned. They mistakenly believe that when anyone ventures to reference and discuss atrocities or negatives from America’s racist past that all such attempts do is generate strife and stir up animosity and hostility. However, I emphatically disagree and believe that all history, regardless of how incriminating, incendiary, or perhaps disgusting it might be, is history that must be recorded and shared Inhumane atrocities, like the Jewish Holocaust, the Communist purging, and systematic slaughtering of millions in both Russia and China under the sadistic leadership of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong respectively (just to name a few), must be told again and again, in order that it will not be repeated. Those who forget the ugly deeds of history are condemned to repeat them.
In light of these truths, we are going to feature in this final installment of Black History month some of the African -American hotels and restaurants that were operational and on the Green Books List during Jim Crow. Most, if not all, of these historical establishments have long since gone out of business. In order for us to rediscover and visit these eateries and lodgings that were listed in the Green Book in Dillon County (for those who came home to visit relatives, for a funeral, or to attend seasonal and yearly events, like the Skillet Fair and the Minturn Picnic), we must use our imaginations.
We must use our imagination and travel back in time to a day long before Interstate 95 was ever thought of. A time when U.S. 301 was the main highway that people traveled from Florida to New York, which happened to run straight through the town of Dillon and Latta. Back in the day, U.S. 301 was the main life line for businesses, especially for those who wanted to stop for gas, to get a meal, and even to spend the night at one of the many hotels that had sprung up at strategic spots along its route through Dillon. The problem for African-American travelers who took this busy highway back and forth from New York to Florida was that the practice of Jim Crow and segregation was in full force and they were forbidden to get a room and spend the night, as well as sit down in one of the eateries and enjoy their food. However, most, if not all, had the Green Book that contained a list of most of the black owned lodgings and eateries where they could get a decent room to spend the night, as well as get a good home cooked meal where they could sit down in a good friendly and hospitable environment to enjoy their food. Most of these hotels with eateries were located in the African- American community and had a section for dancing with a jukebox. These areas often served as juke joints and night clubs. They provided the owners and operators with an opportunity to make more income, as well as giving people in the community outlets of entertainment. It is somewhat impossible for me to list all of the black owned hotels, boarding houses, and eateries that were in existence during the era of Jim Crow and segregation. However, I was able to obtain the names of some that I am quite certain were listed in the Green Book. Due to the fact that U.S. 301 ran straight through the cities of Dillon and Latta, we can deduce that these black-owned establishments were listed in the Green Book. I could not obtain the historical information of which of the lodgings and eateries were established first, so I will do my best to present them to you in the order that I think they belong.
Perhaps, one of the oldest and best of these historical establishments was the Busy Bee Café and Hotel that was established by Mrs. Lee Smith on Hampton Street. Busy Bee Café and Hotel was in existence long before Mrs. Smith’s son, Wade Smith, enlisted in World War II. Wade (who is the father of Kenneth Smith who is running for mayor of the city of Dillon), along with his wife, Margaret, operated Busy Bee after his mother passed away until it closed down in 1978.
The next historical hotel and restaurant that was on the Green Book list was Campbell’s Hotel and Café that was owned and operated by Mr. Jimmy and Mrs. Stella Campbell. Most people knew this establishment by the name of Jimmy’s and it was located on Calhoun Street in Newtown. Many African Americans celebrities, like Willie Mayes, James Brown, and quite a few others stayed at Campbell’s Hotel when they were passing through Dillon during the Jim Crow era. Jimmy’s was, by far, the most well-known hotel, café, and night club in Dillon during the decade of the fifties and early sixties.
During the waning days of Jim Crow, Mr. David Stackhouse, who was a relative of mine, established and built what would be the crown jewel of all the African-American lodgings and eateries in Dillon County called The Ebony Inn that was located on MacArthur Avenue. Mr. Stackhouse’s establishment was not a shabby, hole-in-the-wall place where undesirables gathered. It was ran and maintained with efficiency and excellence by its owner and operator.
The Dillon area had quite a few others that were listed in the Green Book, like Bop City Hotel, Biltmore Hotel, and Danny Griffin’s Boarding House that we can only mention by name in this writing today due to limited space. However, the mere mention of the names of these historical establishments that gave many-a weary traveler and visitor to our city and locale a place to spend the night and get a good meal in a friendly and hospitable environment is very befitting and noteworthy. Hopefully, we will never forget these hotels, restaurants, and juke joints that were very necessary to our culture and community during the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Though they are no longer operational and viable, they shall forever be an indispensable part of our history and legacy.