Charlie’s Place was a popular African American nightclub and small hotel owned by Charlie Fitzgerald and his wife, Sarah, from the late 1930s to the early 1960s in the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood of Myrtle Beach. Before integration, Charlie’s Place served as a gathering spot and performance venue for many famous Black performers including Dizzy Gillespie, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and many others. While black artists were allowed to perform at white venues, like the nearby Ocean Forest Hotel, they were not allowed to use the hotel facilities.
At Charlie’s Place, they could stay in the hotel, perform, and enjoy a meal. On many nights, whites outnumbered blacks at the popular nightspot where people gathered--unified by the fun, music, and dancing.
Charlie’s Place is also the location of one of the more well-known Ku Klux Klan disturbances in this region of South Carolina. In 1950, Klan members from nearby Conway, South Carolina, led a raid on the nightspot. Twenty-six cars of armed Klansmen circled the property and fired hundreds of rounds. Everyone escaped except for Charlie, who was badly beaten. The only death was a Klansman, who was shot in the back by another Klansman. Some Klansmen were charged, but no one was ever prosecuted. Charlie recovered from his injuries and continued to run his successful business.
The Fitzgerald home sat between the nightclub and the hotel they owned and remains there today, along with part of the hotel.
In 2017, the city of Myrtle Beach began a project to preserve the history and musical culture of the former African American nightclub and hotel by purchasing the property. In the years since beginning this project, the city and community members have reconstructed and remodeled the Fitzgerald’s home for use as a community center and event space, and construction is ongoing.
The plan includes renovation of the first four motel units and reconstruction of the other eight. A few of the rooms will be kept as a museum to the era, showing visitors what travel was like during segregated America. The other rooms will be used for small shops and community classes.
To schedule a free tour, contact Alfreda Funnye at 843-918-1056 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested in learning more can also check out the Emmy-winning “Charlie’s Place” short documentary.
Charlie’s Place became part of the African American Civil Rights Network in June 2021.