Meridian’s historic 5th Street seeking revival of past glory

The area was once the hub for African-American businesses in Meridian and East Mississippi
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 3:37 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The E.F. Young Jr. Hotel has been long deserted, but it has been standing on the corner of 5th Street and 25th Avenue in Meridian for generations. In the 1940s, Young opened his own barber and beauty shops, as well as the first and only Meridian hotel to serve African Americans.

“It just meant a lot,” said Veldore F. Young-Graham, Lauderdale County Court Judge and the granddaughter of E.F. Young, Jr. “There was a Fielder & Brooks Pharmacy building. There were a lot of prominent, professional African Americans in that area and that is where African Americans in Meridian went.”

The hotel was part of the African American Business District which provided services that Meridian’s Black community could not otherwise receive because of Jim Crow laws. Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, pioneering African American business people stepped forward to fill the needs of their community.

“When I come to 5th Street, the historic 5th Street, I think about possibility in innovation.,” said Adrian Cross, the executive director of the Meridian Freedom Project. “A long time ago these streets were buzzing and vibrant with people walking from business to business. These businesses provided everything that African Americans in this area needed.”

For years, businesses began to disappear in the area. But recently, the historic 5th Street District has seen a resurgence with several businesses opened, a number of upgrades and other projects on the way.

“There’s a lot of needs right now on 5th Street,” said Meridian Mayor Percy Bland. “Barbershops and salons. This is an historic area and people still want to come back down here and do business and so we’re a business friendly city. We’re going to make this area business friendly.”

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