Slow End to Segregation in Las Vegas

Regarding racial equality, too much of Nevada’s 150-year history as a state is not too good. Las Vegas certainly was not a stranger to discrimination.

According to history professor, Michael Green “As a rule of thumb, if an African-American went into a casino, they were escorted out.”  Green explained that it simply depended upon the casino and the management on the process by which you were escorted out. At that time, African-Americans were aware of the code that the casinos ran by. If tSammy_Davis,_Jr.hey didn’t, they would found out fast or had trouble.

It did not even matter who the person was, whether a famous athlete or entertainer. New York Giants baseball player Willie Mays learned firsthand. And as entertainer Dorothy Dandridge experienced. The simple policy was, “no blacks allowed,” according to Green.

“The manager saw him (Willie Mays) and said, ‘Get that (blank) out of here,’ ” Green said. According to Green, the manager later told a newspaper reporter that Las Vegas was part of the South, and it’s just what customers wanted.

By 1960, tired of that mindset and the prejudicial treatment, the local chapter of the NAACP got together and determined the black community — inspired by demonstrations around the country — was going to stage a peaceful protest right in front of several top properties to end discriminatory policies.
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Dr. James McMillan was the leader of the local chapter of the NAACP, and was also Las Vegas’s first black dentist, announced to the press that the black community would demonstrate on the Strip.

According to Green, the casinos were afraid of the type of publicity such a demonstration would bring. So casino owners and operators caved under the mere threat of a march.

Finally, after too many years of discrimination, the black community finally started to see results.