herman roberts

Herman Roberts, Hotel Pioneer Who Helped Break Down Color Barriers, Dies

Herman Roberts, known for his role in breaking color barriers in Chicago's hotel industry, has passed away, his family confirmed to NBC 5.

Known as a pioneer who paved the way for integration in Chicago, Roberts started his legacy by launching a motel chain that would ultimately garner big names like Nat King Cole and Count Basie, along with a number of Black celebrities who were largely unable to rent rooms in some of the city's biggest chains.

"They wouldn't take Black people downtown... wouldn't rent you a room," Roberts told NBC 5 in a profile of his legacy in 2016.

That inspired Roberts to launch his Best Roberts Motels, eventually accumulating three locations on the city's South Side equipped with tables, a stage for entertaining and plenty of rooms.

"I built a 50-room motel, 50 rooms and my entertainers started coming in," Roberts said.

It wasn't until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that hotels would become integrated.

"Back in those days we could cook in the hotels, we could serve the food, but we couldn't stay there," said Tyronne Stoudemire, touting Roberts for paving the way in Chicago's hotel industry.

"If it had not been for Herman and his trials and errors, we wouldn't be here today to share this story," Stoudemire said.

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