Monday, June 24, 2024

HISTORIC BLACK VEGAS: Black political involvement has deep roots in Nevada

August 13, 2023 by  
Filed under Conversation

Claytee D. White

Let’s get something straight: Nevada may be the Mississippi of the West, but so are Arizona, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, and any state in any part of the country. Illinois is the Mississippi of the Midwest and so are all of the other Midwestern states. New York is the Mississippi of the Northeast and so are the other 12 northeastern states. 

Why am I so sure? There is systemic racism in every nook and cranny of America. In the coming weeks, when anyone, especially a politician running for office, begins to tell you your Las Vegas history, let them know that you are aware of American history. And if you and your group want to know more, call me at (702) 895-2222 and I will share some facts about U.S. history. 

I am writing this article because it is the beginning of campaign season — and people who moved here two minutes ago want to tell you about Las Vegas. You know Las Vegas and all of its flaws, so vote for the best person. Vote for the one who is promising to do the right things in your areas of interest and in your geographical area of the county. But first: conduct your research. We have Google and all kinds of search engines that allow us to learn about each candidate. Attend their local presentations, observe them, listen, and ask questions. Then vote accordingly. 

In the early 1930s, Blacks in Las Vegas formed a Black Democrats Club and a Black Republican Club. They invited candidates running for local, state, and national offices — and though we were small in population, candidates knew Blacks were serious voters. Blacks honored the election process and held great expectations. In August 1932, the Roosevelt Democratic Club held its first meeting of the election season with H. Christiansen as chairman. The purpose of this meeting was to present Democratic candidates running for county and state offices. The next meeting of the club served as a forum for those running for national office. The roster of candidates contained the name Pat McCarran, soon to be U.S. Senator after two unsuccessful runs in 1916 and 1926. McCarran’s appearance before the club shows the importance of Black political involvement. This was the man whose political machine would run Nevada for 20 years. 

Black Republicans were equally active. As Democrats organized, Republicans re-established the Colored Republican Club and chose J. P. Liddell as president with Zimmie Turner as secretary. Two weeks later, a new Republican group started, The Las Vegas Colored Citizens Republican Club elected Arthur McCants as its president. Liddell was president of the Colored Citizens Labor Protective Association, which had initiated steps to prepare Blacks for positions on the Boulder Dam workforce. McCants was president of the NAACP and along with Turner were founding members of the local branch of the organization. 

On July 9, 1931, the Protective Association invited Mayor E.W. Cragin to their regular meeting and were promised sewers, paved streets, sidewalks and other improvements. Blacks unanimously endorsed the mayor’s ideas, but did not see the results until the 1950s. Let’s make sure that we keep our new politicians’ feet to the fire once we elect them.

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