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Las Vegas: An Unconventional History | Primary Source

Race Bias Shocking in Las Vegas

In early 1960 Ches Washington the L.A. based journalist for the national African American weekly New Pittsburgh Courier reported on a planned NAACP protest in Las Vegas, where black residents were segregated on the Westside. Washington recounts the failure of the Moulin Rouge, the celebrated integrated casino that opened and closed in 1955.

NAACP to Jolt Jim Crow: Race Bias Shocking in Las Vegas
LOS ANGELES -- In contrast with the democratic attitudes typical of our town, nearby Las Vegas, Nev. is a virtual hell-hole of racial prejudice...

Negroes are not welcomed into the famous night spots on the Strip, they have very little representation in city government -- although they pay taxes -- and most of the streets in their West Side area are unpaved, dusty and neglected.

Moreover housing for the masses of minorities in that section is generally deplorable and way below par.

MANY times we have been asked by Easterners why the much-talked about Moulin Rouge night club failed. The answer is simple: Most of those in the know realized that the Moulin Rouge was the only place to go in Vegas -- other than a couple of clubs on the West Side -- and that they were not wanted in the noted Strip casinos.

They knew that the living conditions of Negroes there was at a low ebb and that prejudice was at an all-time high. So they just passed up the whole city of Vegas and the Moulin Rouge died a natural death.

Several years ago I spoke in Vegas at a public meeting celebrating Negro History Week. But I wasn't very popular with the city officials present when I condemned the deplorable condition of the streets and housing in the West Side area.

NOW -- AT LONG last -- a showdown seems near on the issue of discrimination against Negroes by the Strip Hotels, thanks to the spirited challenge of the Vegas chapter of the NAACP.

After Dr. James McMillan asked Vegas Mayor Oran Gragson to call a meeting of the Strip hotel restaurants, four of them have declared they operate on a non-discriminatory basis. They are: The Sands, which has as its slogan "a place in the sun," The Riviera, The Dunes and The Flamingo.

If no stand against bias is taken, the local NAACP unit will stage a "peaceful" demonstration.

Action against this situation is long overdue. It's high time that prejudice polluted Las Vegas takes its "place in the sun" of human brotherhood and real democracy.

After the "Moulin Rouge Agreement" ended segregation on the Strip, the New Pittsburgh Courier reported that the entire city will benefit from the changes.

'Sit-Down' Demonstrations Were Planned: Las Vegas Drops Bias Bars

LAS VEGAS -- An NAACP official here hailed the dropping of the long-standing barriers against Negro guests on the famed Strip's hotel's here as "a red letter day for Las Vegas."

Dr. James McMillan, president of the Las Vegas NAACP had indicated that the local branch's followers would stage "sit-down" demonstrations in the casinos and hotels unless the racial bans were removed.

FOR MANY years top Negro entertainers have brought a large portion of the casino patrons to the Strip, but in many instances the performers themselves were not allowed to stay in the hotels or patronize the gambling rooms.

Nat "King" Cole, Eartha Kitt and "Sugar Ray" Robinson were exceptions to the rule, according to a NAACP's official's report.

The change of policy by the hotels should make L.V. the cosmopolitan center of the country, a NAACP official said.

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