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This Day in Georgia History

September 05, 1956

Heart of Atlanta Motel Opened

To view an image of the motel in 1956, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The first units of the Heart of Atlanta Motel opened. The 120-room complex covered a square block and was advertised as the finest motor hotel between New York and Miami. In less than a decade, the motel was at the heart of a major court challenge to the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Refusal of the motel to accept black customers led federal prosecutors to sue that the motel was violating provisions of the 1964 statute. In the case of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S., decided in December 1964, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce includes the power to prohibit segregation in places of public accommodation if those places affect the flow of goods and people from one state to another.