NoirCon is proud to present its 2016 panel discussions at Philadelphia’s prestigious and historical Hotel Brotherhood USA, located at 1523-29 Bainbridge St., between South 15th and South 16th Streets in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood. Contrary to its name, the building is not actually a hotel. Currently, it is home to the Bainbridge Club, a private lounge and event space.
The original Hotel Brotherhood USA was founded in 1883 to provide benefits and support to black workers in Philadelphia, particularly those in the hotel business who were victims of racism, unfair wage policies, and other discriminatory policies.
“The Hotel Brotherhood is a new society of hotel waiters and is conducted by young men on the lines of the regular trades unions, with which it is more or less affiliated in many cities,” described the great W.E.B. Du Bois. “It has some relief features and considerable social life. It strives to open and keep open work for colored waiters and often arranges to divide territory with whites, or to prevent one set form supplanting the other.”
The impetus for the organization was when a black waiter died and his colleagues were unable to raise enough money for burial, according to Rose DeWolf in Philadelphia’s Daily News. “The Hotel Brotherhood's mission was to accumulate money in case of a member's sickness, injury or death. It also ran classes for those who aspired to become waiters and bellmen.” Additionally, it functioned as a social and entertainment hall for its members and local community members.
The Hotel Brotherhood USA also aided in social justice cases, such as when they “spent $500 in rewards and detective fees and brought to trial for prosecution” two white men who had murdered John T. Weldon for his car, as reported in the January 1920 issue of The Crisis, an NAACP publication.
One of the Hotel Brotherhood USA’s founders was Stanislaus Kostka Govern, called “black baseball’s Renaissance man” by Rory Costello of The Society for American Baseball Research. A multi-talented, driven, and groundbreaking individual, Govern was manager of the Washington Manhattans and later the Cuban Giants, a director of the National League of Colored Base Ball Players, and Shakespearean actor, as well as a labor activist.
While the original building burned down in 1937, it was reconstructed shortly thereafter and continues to stand to this day.
It is a privilege and a thrill for NoirCon to be connected to such an important, progressive, and humanitarian organization such as the Hotel Brotherhood USA.
See you all at the Hotel Brotherhood USA!