Sparkle Schoolhouse
FIFTY Study Page: Michigan "The Gotham Hotel"

FIFTY Study Page: Michigan "The Gotham Hotel"

In 1959 there was only one fancy hotel in the country that was owned, run, and patronized by African Americans: The Gotham Hotel. It was not only where Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Joe Lewis, and Cab Calloway stayed when visiting Detroit, but it was also the place where Langston Hughes, C.L. Franklin, and Martin Luther King Jr. expressed the “dream” of what America could be — a “promised land” where everyone truly is equal.

Michigan History

  • History of Detroit and its African American Paradise Valley district
  • History of “The Great Migration” of African Americans from the rural south to the industrial cities of the north
  • Biographies of Martin Luther King Jr., C.L. Franklin (and his daughter Aretha), and Langston Hughes

Michigan Geography

  • Map of Detroit and location of the Paradise Valley and Black Bottom neighborhoods
  • Tracking the migration north of southern, sharecropping African Americans to Chicago and Detroit
  • Map of the “Freedom March” in downtown Detroit

The Gotham Hotel Study Topics

  • Comparative study of Langston Hughes poetry and MLK speeches
  • Study of “The Freedom March” of Detroit and other Civil Rights demonstrations — their effect and legacy

Topics for Reflection

From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn that:

  • Separation can be difficult. Sometimes people whom we really love and care about need to move away, and this can feel really sad. This happens more often than you would think — ask any grownup. Such was the case with Daisy and her dear friend Aretha. This does not mean that the friendship is over, but it does mean that the two friends need to make room for something new.

  • Your talent can help others. We all have a special talent that we can contribute to the world to make it a better place. Aretha had a beautiful, soulful voice. Daisy, instead, had a knack for making people feel welcome. One is certainly not better than the other, and both are needed in our world — and this is true for each of us.

  • Being left behind can be hard, but there is hope for the future. It can feel painful to be the ones left behind when our dear friends or family seem to be exploring new opportunities. At times like this, we can do a few things. We can hold on to ambitions of our own and plan for times when we, too, will be adventuring. Or we can look at where we are with fresh and new eyes, renew our gratitude, and wait for new adventures to come to us. Little did Daisy know the adventures that were on their way to her even after her friend Aretha moved on!

  • Hard work pays off in respect earned. Sometimes we have to work extra hard to earn the respect and trust of others, whether it is our teachers, our parents, or the people for whom we work. Daisy had to prove herself worthy and able to meet the high standards of Mr. White, the owner of The Gotham Hotel. But in earning his respect, she also earned special privileges and a promotion.

  • Rainbows can arrive even on cloudy days. Sometimes when wake up in the morning, it just seems to be a gray day — but it won’t necessarily stay that way. Color can come flooding in any moment. On the Saturday morning that Daisy was to be paid a visit by Aretha, she was feeling quite sorry for herself. But little by little her day got better and better.

  • You can use your influence to help others. Daisy took special care of Eddie Chapman, the busboy. He came from a very poor family, and he was very grateful to have a job. Daisy kept an eye out for him and was pleased when Mr. White was generous and appreciative of Eddie, her favorite busboy.

  • A home base is important. Everyone needs a place where they belong and where they feel like they can be themselves entirely. The Gotham Hotel was a “home” for many African-Americans at the time that it was thriving.

  • Each of us is special, whether we are famous or not. Daisy knew this. She had met many famous people at the Gotham Hotel, but their fame did not necessarily impress her. She could say that they were all interesting in their own way, but not just because they were well known.

  • Values hold more meaning than fame. It is not our fame that makes us extraordinary, but our values, convictions, and accomplishments. Although Daisy had met many famous people, it was the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Langston Hughes that she found most impressive because of the positive impact that their work was having on the world.

  • Peace can bring the best action. Sometimes the most powerful way to make a powerful change is in a “passive,” nonviolent way. Our strongest posture is one where we are sitting still and speaking the truth while being open and vulnerable. This is what Dr. King exemplified.

  • Look for ways that your dream can become reality. When we have a dream or an ambition and we put our entire heart, mind, and soul into it, events in our lives unfold to help us to reach our goals. The book that Langston Hughes gave to Daisy spiraled into connections with Dr. Martin Luther King, an invitation to a march, and an event that altered American history. That one little book changed Daisy’s life and the lives of others forever

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About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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