LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It was a great migration and a time when the Basic Magnesium plant in Henderson became one of the earliest working hubs for African American workers.
Claytee White, director of oral research history at UNLV said when America entered World War II, the United States was trying to catch up on new technology.
Henderson was the perfect place to settle on the magnesium plant as it was near Lake Mead and near Ore at Gabbs Nevada in Nye County.
The plant was looking to fill several positions.
“African American people in small towns in the south found out about this plant and they started coming here from Fordyce, Arkansas, Talullah Louisana, and small towns in Mississippi.”
African Americans were forced to live separately in a segregated section of Henderson called Carver park.
It came with a school and recreation area, but housing wasn’t complete until 1943 and African Americans settled on the west side of town, which is now known as the Historic Westside.
African Americans were able to put their money back into black-owned businesses like restaurants and gaming facilities on Jackson Avenue.
Gwendolyn Walker, the owner of the Walker African American Museum knows how important that impact is.
“When we first came here, my mother and I, well the Historic Westside was the place to be. We had everything in our community that we needed and we’re the only community in Las Vegas that does not have the bare necessities in our area, so we want to see that come back,” Walker said.
That includes reopening her museum to keep that history alive.
“I’m continually learning everyday of how important it is to preserve our history and teach our children and teach others the importance of our history because we truly believe if we know about each other and we learn about each other, we’ll surely get along with each other,” added Walker.
While the plant brought on many working opportunities, African Americans have paved their own way across Las Vegas and Henderson to create the community that we know today.
“It’s so important for us to know our history,” explained Walker. “We don’t want to repeat the unattractive parts of that history so if we know it that’s not likely to happen, but we need to know our history, so we know where we’ve come.”