Transcript of interview with D. D. Cotton by Claytee D. White, February 14, 1997


Digital ID
Transcript of interview with D. D. Cotton by Claytee D. White, February 14, 1997
Material Set
White, Claytee D.
Interview with D. D. Cotton conducted by Claytee D. White on February 14, 1997. Raised in New York City, Cotton arrived in Las Vegas as a dancer in Cab Calloway's traveling production "The Cotton Club." During a period of strained race relations, she stood for equal rights as the first black cocktail waitress on the Strip and one of the first black dealers.
D. D. Cotton started dancing at four or five years of age. She grew up in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem, a section that was home to the black middle class of the time. Railroad porters lived next door to entertainers in an upscale, tree-lined neighborhood. Raised by her mother who worked as a housekeeper, D. D. attended New York City public schools. D. D. Cotton became the first black cocktail waitress downtown on the Strip, and one of the first African American dealers. She did this at a time when relations between blacks and whites were strained in Las Vegas. She was a trailblazer and speaks of her responsibility to take path-breaking positions seriously so that other blacks might follow and build upon the progress. She tolerated racial slurs hurled at her as the price of breaking open new jobs. Currently D. D. is a floorperson on the Las Vegas Strip, where it is her job to insure that fairness prevails in the table games at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino. This is a management position in which few black women are seen, even today. Cotton learned to dance from one of New York's best, Katherine Dunham. She spent her high school years totally absorbed in dance. In addition to her lessons, she worked in clubs dancing as part of a team and in a chorus line. Among her jobs was an engagement at the Apollo Theater. D. D. soon had an opportunity to travel with a production show entitled "The Cotton Club" that featured Cab Calloway. From Miami to Las Vegas, the entire production company of fifty arrived in Las Vegas in 1957 to play at the Royal Nevada Hotel. "It was at that point," D. D. said, "my life really begins." She recounts the trials of working under de facto segregation in Las Vegas (and other metropolitan cities) as well as the long-lasting friendships with other entertainers. She met her husband Elmer and quit show business, only to be thrust into the even more exciting gaming industry.
Identified Individuals
Identified Corporate Bodies
Neighborhood City / Town
F850.N4 C68 1998
Original Collection
Original Date (interview)
Subject (FAST)
DC Type
Genre (TGM)
Specific Genre (LCSH)
This material may be protected by copyright. Personal, including educational and academic, use of this material is without restriction; but acknowledgement of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries is requested whether the use is oral, web or in print. Commercial use of any portion of this material requires permission. For further information please contact Digital Collections: This document is an oral history. It is a spoken account of certain events and phenomena recorded at one particular moment and filtered through one individual's life experience, sensibility, and memory. As such, it should be considered a primary source rather than a final, verified, or complete narrative of the events it records.
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University of Nevada Las Vegas
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2352 x 3119 pixels; 7.8 x 10.4 inches; 22,316,832 bytes; 93 images
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24 bit color; 300 ppi

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