When we first turned off the newly completed, two-lane I-75 in the spring of 1971 to start a new job at Blue Bird Body Company, one of the first signs that caught our attention on Sam Nunn Blvd, close to where the Red Lobster ® restaurant is now, was a billboard for The Ebony Hotel. I was so naive at the time that I didn’t even realize that it was The hotel in Perry designated for negroes. Somewhere near it, I can’t remember exactly where, was another sign for the New Perry Hotel.
At that time there was virtually nothing else on Sam Nunn Blvd that is there today except The Holiday Inn ®, which is now the Ramada Inn ®. There were businesses there of course, but all have since given way to make room for Wal-Mart, Kroger and all manner of fast food restaurants.
When we finally realized that the Ebony Hotel sign meant that hotel accommodations in Perry were segregated, it was a bit of a shock to us having just moved from Detroit, obviously not perfect having just come through the racial riots of 1967, but not openly segregated like this. I also remember segregated water fountains, and bathroom facilities in Perry but they don’t stand out in my mind like that Ebony Hotel sign.
So why bring this up now? Because we just watched a wonderful movie over the weekend called Hidden Figures . From Wikipedia, it is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about black female mathematicians who worked at (NASA) during the Space Race. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor and mathematician Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as NASA engineer Mary Jackson, with Kevin Costner.
The film is about the struggles these three black women and their cohorts had to endure while working at NASA in the very early days of the space race and what a key part they played. In fact, Katherine Johnson, whom NASA has subsequently named a building after, did calculations by hand re the intended re-entry/touch down position for John Glenn’s first orbital flight, at his insistence, while he was enroute to the capsule!
It is a great movie. In fact it was nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer), and two Golden Globes. There is nothing offensive in this movie other than the fact it holds up our segregated past in front of us like a mirror. But that’s an offense we need to look at from time to time. It is a wonderful movie to watch with your grandchildren to help them understand our recent history re the issue of segregation. It’s also worth watching without your grandchildren!
Thank goodness the Ebony Hotel sign was torn down years ago. Racial equality is not perfect yet, but we sure have come a long way. Lets continue our part of the job by treating everyone according to the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12-14 New International Version)
Thanks for reading All About Seniors…..see you next week!
Bill Milby is a Director of Visiting Angels® of Central Georgia, a non-medical, living assistance service for seniors. If you have questions or comments about this column you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org