Wednesday, July 28, 2021

HISTORIC BLACK VEGAS | The words of Rev. Donald Clark

June 15, 2021 by  
Filed under Community

Claytee D. White

The words of Rev. Donald Clark

BY CLAYTEE D. WHITE

An old African proverb states that “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.”

How very accurate in the case of Donald Clark. Although he did not accept an invitation to be interviewed, his wisdom led him to donate a small collection to Special Collections & Archives in the Lied Library at UNLV. This short article shows how important it is to save and share your papers and those of your organizations with the university, a museum, or a library that has the capacity to preserve items for future generations.

On February 24, 1961, the Las Vegas NAACP presented a Certificate of Merit to Rev. Donald Clark signed by Dr. J.B. McMillan, president. By July, Clark had become president of the NAACP and began a massive letter writing campaign to alter the area’s perception of systemic racism in employment. On July 26, 1961, he sent a letter and resolution to the City Commissioners demanding an open-door policy throughout the gaming industry along with employment opportunities for the Black community.

On the first day of October, he wrote to Vegas Village Corporation: “The NAACP has noticed after very careful and thorough investigation, that although your store is very substantially patronized by residents of West Las Vegas, and in spite of the fact that a number of your stockholders are members of the NAACP and residents of the West Las Vegas, that there is not a single Negro, man or woman, employed in any capacity whatsoever except of a janitorial nature.”

On October 14, 1961 he penned a letter to the City, that stated: “It takes no courage for the Mayor, or other elected officials, to shunt a minority into the background because that’s where the minority is already. It does, however, take courage for the Mayor to do the unpopular thing and try to bring democracy where none exists. Don’t you think it is strange that there isn’t a Negro of any stature whatsoever in any employment in the City of Las Vegas?”

Would you like to read the letters? Do you know who applied and was hired at Vegas Village Market? Ask Ida Gaines and Brenda Williams. Do you know some of the early Black employees at the City of Las Vegas? If so, I want to interview them.

Rev. Donald Clark’s collection is small but powerful. All three of the above entries were taken from the same folder contained in his collection of about 50 folders housed in two boxes.

After serving as NAACP president, Rev. Clark served on the Economic Opportunity Board and in 1984 was appointed to the Clark County Commission replacing Woodrow Wilson. We lost this community library in 2017.

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