Counter-history of the Las Vegas Valley

Topic 3: Counter-history of the Las Vegas Valley

Overview and Goals of the Lesson

The Las Vegas Valley is depicted in our collective imagination as an oasis of glitz and glamor set within the high desert. Yet, beyond The Strip and gaming and hospitality complex is a set of vibrant communities whose histories of struggle, resistance, and resilience have played an important role in making what Las Vegas is today. This set of readings offers counter-narratives of Las Vegas history and its communities. The goal of this lesson is to learn about the resistance and resilience of these communities as they face various forms of oppression, exploitation, and marginalization. The lesson offers examples of counter-narratives and counter-histories, an analysis of the intersections of various forms of oppression, and examples of participatory action research and oral history methodologies. This lesson centers the question of:
How have minoritized communities in Las Vegas Valley resisted erasure, exploitation, and oppression?

Keywords: Unionization, Immigrant Rights, Youth Activism, Social Justice

Scholarly Engagements

Revilla, A. (2012). What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas: Youth leadership in the immigrant rights movement in Las Vegas, 2006. Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, 37(1), 87-115. Available here.

Ross, S. O. (2022). A "Historic Westside" story: Las Vegas Black history, gaming policy effects on Black employment, and gaming companies leaving money on the table. UNLV Gaming Law Journal, 12(2), 7. Available here.

Video: The Influences of Asian and the Pacific (in Las Vegas).

Gray, M., & DeFilippis, J. (2015). Learning from Las Vegas: Unions and post-industrial urbanisation. Urban Studies, 52(9), 1683-1701. Available here.

Discussion Questions

  • How have racism and capitalism shaped equity and opportunity in the Las Vegas Valley?
  • How have communities resisted erasure, exploitation, and oppression within your local regions?
  • What knowledge can we learn from Las Vegas experiences to promote equity within your local region?

Additional resources

Martinez, N. (2021). The “East Side” of Las Vegas: A Latinx historical framework. Spectra Undergraduate Research Journal, 1(2), 6.

Orleck, A. (2005). Storming Caesars Palace: How Black mothers fought their own war on poverty. Beacon Press.

Opportunity to support Las Vegas AAPI Oral History Project: