%> Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State
Nevada Government & Politics
World War II & Post-War
(1940-1964)

Discrimination in Hawthorne

In 1930 when the Naval Ammunition Depot opened in Hawthorne, it provided jobs for residents and an important economic boost to the area during the Great Depression.  During the Second World War, a military buildup throughout the nation resulted in an economic boom in the West and in Nevada.  African-Americans went west to find jobs and leave behind the poverty they had endured during the Great Depression.  A number of African-Americans moved to Hawthorne to work at the Ammunition Depot, and many stayed worked there for many years, such as these workers in the 1960s.

There had been very few people of color in Hawthorne in the years prior to WWII.  The government constructed Babbitt, a town to house Naval Ammunition Depot workers and their families. Euro-American and African-American workers lived there and in Hawthorne.  Living conditions were sometimes difficult during the war.

At the Naval Ammunition Depot, the different races worked together.  In Babbitt, however, African-Americans were confined to houses in the "colored" section of the town.  The movie theater, the bowling alley, and the soda fountain in Babbitt were segregated.  African-Americans did not have the freedom to choose where they would sit to watch a movie.  The "colored" area was sectioned off with a rope.  Businesses such as restaurants, casinos, and some stores refused to serve African-American customers.  Most employers in private business would not hire African-Americans.  Discrimination in the Hawthorne area was not as bad as in parts of the American South.  African-Americans were not denied their voting rights, and schools and hospitals were not segregated.

In the 1960s The Civil Rights movement throughout the nation and in Nevada attempted to end discrimination.  The Hawthorne branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) worked to change discriminatory policies in the area.  Resistance, however, was strong.  Intervention by Governor Grant Sawyer, requesting an end to the El Capitan's (a local casino) refusal to serve or even admit African-American customers, was refused.

The NAACP organized sit-ins and demonstrations against discrimination Hawthorne.  The end of discrimination came with the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.  Eventually most of the town of Babbitt was dismantled, and houses were demolished or moved.
 

Photo Credits:
Mineral County Museum