Boulder City Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride, Boulder City Museum & Historical Assn.

Camp Williston Racism
When Boulder City’s Camp Williston, originally known as Camp Sibert, was commissioned near the beginning of World War II, the troops stationed there were African-American.

Boulder City had an uneasy relationship with the camp and there were numerous incidents of racism against the soldiers by Boulder townspeople—including refusing black soldiers entrance to the USO dances.There exists in the museum’s files correspondence among military authorities and Boulder City officials detailing the unwanted presence of black troops in town. But the racism reached a fever pitch in an incident recalled by the late Floyd Jenne, who served as Boulder City’s chief of police.

According to Jenne, military authorities were growing concerned that African-American workers at the BASIC Magnesium defense plant in nearby Henderson were about to strike. The BMI plant in Henderson was one of the most important defense installations in the country, producing both magnesium and manganese. If a strike crippled production, the war effort would be compromised. Ordinarily, the government would depend upon the military police troops at Boulder City’s Camp Williston to maintain order at BMI—but the Williston soldiers themselves were black and Jenne claims rumors circulated through Boulder City that rather than maintain order at the plant, Williston’s African-American troops would support the black strikers.

Whether the rumors were true or contrived, federal authorities were alarmed. To avoid what they feared would be a serious breach of security, the government brought Caucasian troops into Boulder City from southern California by train. While the black soldiers at Williston maintained their routine perimeter guard of the camp, the white soldiers set up a perimeter guard of the black soldiers’ perimeter guard to make sure they could not support their brothers at BMI. Once the BMI strike was resolved, Williston’s black troops were removed and replaced with white soldiers until the camp closed in 1944.

Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.

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