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Much to do at Paducah's Metropolitan Hotel

Hotel Metropolitan honors Black History Month, underground railroad quilts, Soul food.

The brown paper bag test was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American sororities and fraternities to discriminate against people who were "too black".
photo by Patsy Bell Hobson
Whitehaven Welcome Center Hwy 45, I24 Exit 7 Paducah Kentucky 42001. Circa 1860.
photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Not to be missed exhibits and springtime attractions in Paducah, Kentucky. A little city with a rich history in transportation, commerce and curiosities.

Hotel Metropolitan is a "Save America's Treasures" project, this 1908 hotel has been restored as an African-American heritage museum. Built in a classical revival style, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mrs. Maggie M. Steed, a widow, built the first hotel in Paducah, KY, owned and operated by and for African Americans.

Famous African-American entertainers, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner, were guests at the hotel prior to desegregation.

During QuiltWeek, April 23-26, 2014, the Hotel features an African American quilt exhibit and lectures including the rich heritage of Underground Railroad quilts.

One interesting exhibit is the brown paper bag test.

The reason for the using the "paper bag" is because the color of the paper bag is considered to be the "center" marker of blackness that distinguishes “light skin” from “dark skin” on a continuum stretching from black to white. Also, the brown paper bag is believed to act as a benchmark for certain levels of acceptance and inclusion.

The brown paper bag test was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American sororities and fraternities to discriminate against people who were "too black". The common brown paper bag was the marker used to distinguish “light skin” from “dark skin.” The brown paper bag was a center mark used for certain levels of acceptance or inclusion.

Black History Month will be celebrated at The Hotel Metropolitan will host a soul food sampler. Grand Ma's Recipes Soul Food Sampler on February 15, 2014, Times: 10:30 AM-1 PM. Cost: Donations are requested. Call Phone: 270.443.7918

The public is welcomed. Join others for cultural sharing and to taste authentic soul food cooking including yams, greens, chitlins and more. FYI, there will be limited seating.

Details: Venue: Hotel Metropolitan, 724 Oscar Cross Dr., Paducah, KY 42001, February 15, 2014, Times: 10:30 AM-1 p.m., Cost: Donations are requested, Phone: (270) 443-7918

Quiltmaker and historian, Dr. Nancy J. Dawson, incorporates primary sources into her quilts to share the stories of African Americans throughout history. In some of her quilts she uses photo transfer techniques to include authentic pre-Civil War newspaper ads promoting the sale of slaves. Some of her work also incorporates photographs that present the viewer with an authentic portrayal of African American history and life.

Dawson’s quilt, titled What Would Mammy Say? will be unveiled at the show. The piece tells the story of African American women who served as domestic workers in the 1940s and 50s. Dawson stitches authentic relics into the quilt, such as bits of an apron worn by a domestic worker during this period of African American history.

“Quilting is a means of healing. People can look at my quilts in this collection and it will help them to have a greater understanding of the African American people,” Dawson says.

Quilts will be displayed Thursday, April 25 through Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. & 2 p.m. at the Hotel Metropolitan, 724 Oscar Cross Drive. Dawson will present a lecture at 6 PM on Thursday, April 25.

Dr. Alicestyne Turley, Director of the Carter G. Woodson Center and Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Berea College, will explore Quilts of the Underground Railroad in a lecture through quilts that depict slavery and African American life before the Civil War.
Details: The lecture will be at 10 a.m. & 2 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and 11 AM on Saturday, April 27. No charge, limited seating.

A “Save America’s Treasures” project, the Hotel Metropolitan is a 1908 historic hotel that has been restored as an African-American heritage museum. For more information, visit

The McCracken County Public Library honors women's oral history, storytelling, empowerment

Quilt Art: Examining the Narrative in Kentucky Quilts presented by Dr. Pearlie Johnson, Professor of Pan-African Studies and Art History.
Dr. Johnson has collected oral history interviews with quilters from throughout Kentucky. Her presentation includes quilters whose work she focuses on for this discussion.
Johnson's presentation encompasses women's history, storytelling, identity politics, and empowerment. Dr. Johnson's study of quilts in Kentucky, includes an array cultural groups

Details: April 24, 2014, Times: 7 PM, Venue: McCracken County Public Library, 555 Washington St., Paducah, KY 42001, Admission: Free, Phone: 270.442.2510. Co-sponsored by The Kentucky Humanities Council & The Friends of The McCracken County Public Library

For more information about Paducah, contact: Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau • 128 Broadway, Paducah, KY 42001 • 1.800.PADUCAH

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