In 1957, Hotel Turned Away Black Newlyweds. 60 Years Later, New Jersey Fifth-Graders Organized Them A Long-Overdue Honeymoon
In 1957, Hotel Turned Away Black Newlyweds. 60 Years Later, New Jersey Fifth-Graders Organized Them a Long-Overdue Honeymoon
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A group of fifth-grade students in New Jersey were deeply moved by the story of a black couple who were denied entry to their honeymoon hotel in the 1950s due to racial discrimination. Determined to make things right, the students organized a special celebration for the couple just in time for their 60th wedding anniversary.
Gilbert and Grace Caldwell, newlyweds at the time, had traveled from North Carolina to Mount Airy Lodge in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. However, they were turned away because of the color of their skin.
Gil Caldwell, a retired pastor from the Rocky Mountain Conference, often speaks about his experiences during the civil rights movement. During a visit to Bear Tavern Elementary School, he shared the story of his honeymoon with the students. He recalls the hotel pretending that they didn’t have a reservation, and later claiming that their other guests would be unhappy if they accepted the Caldwells.
The students were outraged by the mistreatment the couple endured. One student expressed, "At the end of the story, I was like, ‘That’s just terrible.’" Another described it as the worst thing someone could do to another person.
Determined to make a difference, the students launched a letter-writing campaign. They reached out to the hotel, now known as Mount Airy Casino Resort, and asked if they would give the Caldwells the opportunity to experience the honeymoon they were denied all those years ago. Fortunately, the hotel agreed, and last month, CBS News captured the Caldwells arriving for their stay.
In a heartwarming video, Gil Caldwell exclaims, "We’re here! We’re here! We’re here!" as they arrive at the hotel. The couple is warmly welcomed by a valet and walks through the hotel’s vibrant hallways with excitement. Despite walking with a cane, Gil walks briskly, commenting on how nice the rug feels. Grace is equally delighted, stating, "It’s a beautiful place." Once inside their room, they share a sweet kiss, unaffected by the presence of the camera crew.
In May, the school surprised the Caldwells with the news of their special celebration at an assembly. Language arts teacher, Christina Virtucio, pinned a boutonniere on Gil and presented Grace with a wrist corsage. Students read parts of the letters they wrote about the couple’s experiences in 1957. The principal, Christopher Turnbull, then announced the hotel’s generous offer of an all-expenses-paid stay for the Caldwells.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Gil Caldwell expressed his appreciation to the students, stating, "What you do for me is wonderful, how magnificent." The resort also shared the CBS News story on Facebook, highlighting the incredible gesture made by the students and the significance of the Caldwells’ visit.
A spokesperson from the casino expressed their appreciation for the couple, mentioning how delighted they were to have them as guests. They also stated that their gesture towards the couple was the least they could do. Grace Caldwell, speaking to CBS, expressed her gratitude for the children’s heartfelt concern, describing it as truly remarkable. You can receive similar stories directly in your inbox by signing up for Newsletter.