Entertainers Fought Against Las Vegas Strip Racism - 8 News NOW

Entertainers Fought Against Las Vegas Strip Racism

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Anna Bailey danced around the world.   Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine Anna Bailey danced around the world. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine
Anna Bailey posing at the Moulin Rouge.               Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine Anna Bailey posing at the Moulin Rouge. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine
Anna Bailey's husband, Bob, was instrumental in bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Las Vegas.                       Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine Anna Bailey's husband, Bob, was instrumental in bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine
Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine Photo Credit: Las Vegas Black Image Magazine
Anna Bailey with reporter Sharie Harvin. Anna Bailey with reporter Sharie Harvin.

LAS VEGAS -- To look at Anna Bailey, no one would guess she is 87. She came to Las Vegas with little more than a dream in 1955.

"We passed by the Strip and we just kept on driving. It was getting darker and darker but when we saw the Moulin Rouge, it was just beautiful," Bailey said.

At 26-years-old, Bailey arrived in Las Vegas fresh out of a New York dance studio.

"We had beautiful costumes, beautiful numbers. We had Lionel Hampton's band and Les Brown's band."

Las Vegas' first interracial resort, the Moulin Rouge, drew popular crowds of people who cared more about the sound of music than the color of someone's skin.

"We might have Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte ... that was the hang out place."

Six months later, the Moulin Rouge suddenly closed, but the doors of Bailey's dance career swung open. From Los Angeles to Europe, she hit the road as the lead dancer in Pearl Bailey's troupe and then returned to Las Vegas to become the first African-American dancing in a house chorus line on the Strip. Even though blacks still weren't allowed inside the Strip properties as customers, that didn't stop Bailey.

"We would walk in and the security would stop us at all the hotels and I'll never forget, and I have to give Frank Sinatra this credit, that he came and got us and brought us to his table in the casino," Bailey said.

After a performance, Bailey says black performers had to leave out the back door. Despite a few people oblivious to race, Bailey says segregation, discrimination and white supremacy was real in Las Vegas. The tide turned in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act passed. Three years later, Bailey's husband, Bob Bailey, invited his former classmate Dr. Martin Luther King Junior to the Las Vegas NAACP chapter.

"They were in the Glee Club together at Moorehouse in Atlanta and so when Bob called him, for him to come here to speak, he knew Bob, so he came."

Bailey, who now lives with Parkinson's disease, asked Dr. King to speak out against inequality in Las Vegas.

"I was so thrilled by sitting next to him and he really was an elegant speaker," she said.

A year later, King was killed, but his dream came alive. Las Vegas was integrated. Equal rights began and jobs opened up bringing change to Las Vegas.

Anna Bailey later became one of the first African-American women to hold a gambling license. Her husband, Bob Bailey, later became the first person appointed by President George Bush to help minority businesses in Nevada. He was also the first African-American to produce and host a television show in the country. It was called Talk of the Town and aired on Channel 8.

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