The Las Vegas Tribune, along with the sponsors and supporters of this
reprinted four-part Black History Page series, recognize the
achievements of pioneering Black Las Vegans and others. We celebrate
our collective rich American history, noting the positive changes
along the way and welcoming those yet to come.
By Parker Philpot
From Parker’s Pen
Adapted for use by the Las Vegas Tribune with permission of the author.
Throughout history, civil rights barriers and arbitrary social blocks
have been placed against one group by another — Las Vegans were not
exempt. But throughout time, bold pioneers, brave citizens and
community organizers have worked to support advancements, positive
change and parity for all groups.
Our cities and society are all the better for the breakdown of fear-,
ignorance-, and hate-based discriminatory barriers set up against
Blacks were among the first to inhabit Nevada, as early as the mid
1800s. Pervasive racial and ethnic barriers — much of it systematic
economic and civil rights discrimination — sprang up and continued for
decades after Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905.
So perverse was the racism that it regularly prohibited even the most
qualified Blacks from obtaining entry-level administrative jobs or
management positions as late as the 1960s and beyond. Las Vegas
history shows that even its highest earning Strip headline
entertainers and most famous actors, such as Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl
Bailey and Dorothy Dandridge, were barred from using the hotel
facilities, the pool and even the hotel rooms.
As a result, many professionals were forced to stay in the nearly
all-Black part of town, originally called the McWilliams Townsite,
later referred to as the Westside. The segregation of Blacks from the
rest of Las Vegas resulted in the establishment of stores,
restaurants, and service businesses in proximity to serve the
close-knit community’s needs. It also resulted in flourishing
nightclubs and hotels, which became places where Blacks, Whites and
others enjoyed nightlife together.
The high point for many during 1955 was time spent at the now-historic
landmark Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino. Patrons of all races and ages
enjoyed performances by elegant showroom dancers and world-class
entertainers, such as Cab Calloway and other greats of the era.
The Westside property later became the site of the March 1960
desegregation agreement signing that started an end to race-based
segregation and eased bans on hiring Blacks in gaming and other job
Month for Progress
Black History Month promotes education, awareness and a sense of
community pride that can last throughout the year ahead. We are all
united in our shared histories, and we grow closer through knowing
more about our ethnic-specific, unique experiences.
Students who learn more about history are in a better position to
prevent the errors of the past. And beyond the classrooms, our
neighborhoods and workplaces become more harmonious through respect,
stemming from mutual understanding and interracial compassion.
More important, this designated month is a time to reflect on the
efforts of groundbreaking pioneers who braved harsh resistance,
threats and other challenges of being the first Blacks to push open or
walk through newly opened doors of opportunity.
It is close to impossible to name each one, as there are hundreds in
Southern Nevada alone. And all across Nevada, there were thousands of
Blacks pioneering accomplishments. Nor is it yet possible to have a
complete, irrefutable history because so many of the pages of U.S. and
Nevada history were left blank, omitting the triumphs and trials of
many Black contributors to progress.
The focus of this Black History Month four-part series will be on
selecting a diverse sampling of notable “firsts” from our local area.
It could in no way be complete, for there are countless people who
worked in public view or fought private battles. Furthermore, some of
the history has been spread by word of mouth, sometimes erroneously,
in the absence of fully documented historical records.
Those whom we feature represent only a small number of the many
notable Black “firsts” in the Southern Nevada Community. Some are
native Nevadans, but others relocated here. Some are living, some have
passed on, and some are the namesakes of local schools and facilities.
Allow the selected listings to serve as merely a starting point; a
catalyst to spur further discussion in homes, workplaces and classroom
sessions. Introspection and personal involvement help towards
continuing to tear down ill-spirited barriers that have hurt our
communities, cities, states and nation.
Several organizations, publishers, Black and White historians, as well
as others, are working independently or collectively to right the
wrongs of the tainted or empty historical records about Blacks.
Among them are: the Las Vegas Black Historical Society; Erma J.
Walker, a pioneering Moulin Rouge associate and developer of the
“80-Plus Pioneers and Firsts” traveling exhibit; the Nevada Black
History Project in Northern Nevada; Claytee White and other special
historic collections department associates at the University of
Nevada, Las Vegas; and multiculturalism and diversity educator Diana
Asabi Aird, the creator, founder, publisher and editor in chief of
the Official Las Vegas Ethnic Guide.
Black writers, including Trish Geran, who authored “Beyond the
Glimmering Lights,” and Louis Overstreet, who wrote “Black Steps in
the Desert Sands” in 1999, and other authors have captured aspects of
the Black experience in the Las Vegas Valley and Nevada.
Documentary filmmakers, such as entertainer and producer Lou Ragland,
and long-time local professional photographers, such as Bob Morgan and
the legendary C.J. Cansler, have recorded with visual clarity the
living history of day-to-day Black life and notable historic episodes
— the joyous and the solemn occasions.
Musicians, artists and spoken word poets, such as Keith Brantley and
Lawrence “Square Biz” Robinson, have served as griots, re-telling
local Black stories with a creative touch.
From elementary schools to university lecture halls, sensitive
educators, such as Carolyn D. Clark, Dr. Linda Young, professors
Roosevelt Fitzgerald and Porter Troutman, among others, offer
invaluable multicultural lessons and teach the nuances to new
generations, ensuring that Black history and traditions won’t fade
into obscurity. In addition, many youth and student groups have
undertaken projects to record the oral histories of elders.
The historically Black Press, such as the local Sentinel-Voice, and
Independent Press community newspapers, such as the Las Vegas Tribune,
record current events bound for history, and their publications serve
as a ready source for insightful ethnic and cultural information.
Katherine Duncan of the Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce and others in the
business arena have advocated for entrepreneurs through their
organizations and publications, especially in the Historic West Las
New ethnocentric magazine creators are adding to the knowledge base,
too. Among them are co-publishers and editors in chief of “Las Vegas
Black Image,” Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud and Charles Tureaud of
Culturally Diverse Advertising Media Relations LLC, and “The Urban
Voice” published by Joseph C. Abraham of 62030 Media Inc. Their
publications foster a greater sense of community and awareness.
The history of Blacks in our valley is evolving, and the records are
now being solidified, clarified and placed in unifying perspective. It
is an effort we must all endeavor to support.
Despite difficulties, scores of pioneers have served their communities
in various fields, including law enforcement, education, performing
arts, publishing, healthcare, film, business, politics, religion,
military, civic leadership and many more.
Read about their achievements and honor the Black experiences. And
know that each one of them, in some way, contributed to the economic
growth and expansion of our world-famous city. Ethnic inclusion is
always just, wise and economically fruitful for our city.
Some individual accomplishments listed may have been shared by others
in close time proximity. Though we strive for accuracy, any unintended
omission or error should be brought to the attention of the Black
History Page series producer, Parker Philpot Services at