Posted on: August 7, 2023, 08:04h.
Last updated on: August 7, 2023, 01:36h.
Frank Sinatra’s Impact on Desegregation in Las Vegas
Frank Sinatra, the legendary singer, is often credited with breaking down racial barriers in Las Vegas. While his efforts were undoubtedly influential, it is important to note that political action played a significant role in ending segregation on the Strip. In the 1950s, Sinatra took a stand against discrimination by refusing to perform at the Sands unless his friend and fellow performer Sammy Davis Jr. was allowed to stay at the casino hotel. This led to Davis being granted his own suite, marking a small victory in the fight against segregation.
Another incident involving Sinatra occurred when he noticed that Nat King Cole, another Black entertainer, was forced to dine alone in the Sands’ dressing room. Determined to make a difference, Sinatra invited Cole to join him for a meal, making him the first person of color to eat in the Sands’ Garden Room. These stories, while potentially apocryphal, highlight Sinatra’s willingness to challenge the discriminatory norms of the time.
Sinatra’s commitment to civil rights extended beyond personal actions. In 1961, he and the Rat Pack headlined a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in support of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. During his concerts, Sinatra frequently spoke out against segregation, recognizing the need for change. His efforts were captured in an essay he penned for Ebony magazine in 1958, where he lamented the dehumanization of people of color and called for societal growth.
Prior to 1960, people of color were barred from staying, gambling, and dining in Las Vegas casino hotels. Even revered Black headliners like Davis and Cole had to enter through back doors and perform in segregated spaces. African-American tourists were relegated to boarding houses on the Westside, away from the main attractions. It was not until a meeting at the Moulin Rouge casino hotel in 1960 that progress was made. Representatives from the casinos, along with government leaders, gathered to discuss the end of segregation on the Strip. This meeting, known as the Moulin Rouge Agreement, paved the way for African-Americans to patronize the establishments and hold public-facing positions. It was a pivotal moment in the fight for equality in Las Vegas.
Sinatra’s influence cannot be denied, but it is crucial to recognize the larger context and the collective efforts that led to desegregation. While he played a significant role, it was the fear of economic repercussions and the demands of the civil rights movement that ultimately pushed the casinos to change their policies. Sinatra’s actions, along with those of other entertainers and activists, served as catalysts for progress. However, lasting change came through the collaboration and determination of many individuals and organizations.
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