Shreveport mayor apologizes for racist treatment of Sam Cooke

Hotel denied room to black singer 50 years ago

By Sophie Sherry and Christina Zdanowicz, CNN
RCA Victor Records/Wikimedia

Sam Cooke

(CNN) - A Louisiana mayor is apologizing more than 50 years later for Shreveport's mistreatment of the late singer Sam Cooke.

Cooke traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana, for a performance in 1963. According to an investigation by CNN affiliate KSLA, Cooke made reservations to stay at the city's downtown Holiday Inn, but was turned away because he was black.

At the city's annual Let the Good Times Roll Festival on Saturday, Mayor Adrian Perkins issued a formal apology on behalf of Shreveport and presented Cooke's daughter with a key to the city.

"We need to come to terms with our past so we can move forward in a positive way, so this is the beginning. Specifically with this, it's a beginning of a new relationship with the Cooke family," said Perkins, according to CNN affiliate KTBS.

Cooke and three members of his group were arrested later that evening after leaving the Holiday Inn for "blowing their car horn loudly and interrupting other guests," according to the Shreveport Journal in 1963.

David Washington, a close friend of Cooke's, told KSLA the honking was due to a malfunction on the car. Police held Cooke and the others for five hours, eventually releasing them each on a $102 bond, according to KSLA.

Author Peter Guralnick, who wrote a biography of Cooke, told KSLA that the incidents in Shreveport inspired Cooke to write one the most important civil rights era songs — "A Change is Gonna Come."

"It was such a terrible thing that happened and the song was a direct outgrowth of it," Guralnick said.

Cooke died a year later in December 1964 at a motel in Los Angeles.

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