Monday, August 05, 2019

Black History: How Sammy Davis, Jr. Desegregated Vegas


It's not very well known that Sammy Davis, Jr. single-handedly de-segregated Las Vegas. I saw a documentary about this a few years ago.

I am dropping Black history all over my neighbourhood in South London at the moment. I walked into Holland & Barrett one day and this song was playing. It sounded like Sammy to me.  So I told this story to a couple of the younger members of staff.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, Sammy Davis, Jr. was known as one of the world's top entertainers. He could sing, he could dance, he could act. In many ways, Michael Jackson was similar to Davis. Sammy starred in the original Ocean's Eleven, along with other members of the Rat Pack.

Naturally, the hotel-casinos wanted Davis to perform for them. Every week, they sent him telegrams begging him to come and perform. They always offered him a beautiful, luxurious trailer in which to stay.

I asked them, “Why did Sammy not accept the offers?”. They couldn't answer the question. So I told them:

He wanted to be able to stay in the hotel, not in a trailer out back. The white performers, such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, stayed in the hotel. As their Rat Pack co-star, Davis wanted equal treatment.

They then asked me, “Why couldn't he stay in the hotels?”.

So I explained: Because of racism. That's how segregation worked.

I continued: This went on for weeks and weeks, months and months, until one day, one of the hotel-casinos finally caved. They said, “okay, you can stay in the hotel”. Sammy responded by saying, “I have to be able to eat in the restaurant and play at the tables if I want to”. “Okay, Sammy, whatever you want. Just come and perform here”.

But Sammy had more demands. “My band members must be allowed to stay in the hotel, eat in the restaurant and play at the tables if they want to”. “Okay, Sammy, whatever you say”.

And that's how Sammy Davis Jr. personally de-segregated Las Vegas. Similarly, Michael Jackson de-segregated MTV.  

If you want to know the truth about Black history, go here for some ofmy Black history blogs.

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