Lawrence Ross/The Root

#TheRootTrip is a series of long, two- to three-hour drives on the highway as I desperately try to get to small towns before sundown. The trip from Jackson, Miss., to Meridian, Miss., happened in the late afternoon, and I could see a thunderstorm approaching as I tried hard to reach my destination before dark.

What’s funny is that as I keep going toward my target, I get more and more determined to do whatever it takes to get the shot, even though I’m never sure about whether or not the place I’m shooting has any particular significance. It could be an open field or a historic building. In the case of the E.F. Young Hotel, it was the latter.

Lawrence Ross/The Root

Meridian is your typical small Southern town, where everything closes down around 9 p.m. and there are old-school department stores like Kress still anchoring the main square. My target was close to the business district, but it was isolated because the city had renovated the 500 block of 25th Avenue. But even though there was a torrential rain that turned the streets into a coppery-colored morass of Mississippi mud, there it was, in all its majesty: the E.F. Young Hotel.

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I was genuinely impressed, not only by the fact that it still stood but by the grand nature of the building. A lot of the listings in the Green Book call themselves hotels, but I’d say that this was more aspirational than reality. But the E.F. Young was indeed a real hotel.

Lawrence Ross/The Root

E.F. Young Jr. started out as a barber in Mississippi before branching out into manufacturing hair care products through his company, the E.F. Young Jr. Manufacturing Co. With his profits from the manufacturing and his investments in barbershops and beauty salons, he eventually built the E.F. Young hotel. And his company is still going, manufacturing hair care products in Meridian.