Nevada Black History Project Records

Identifier: 98-33

Scope and Contents

The Nevada Black History Project Records of collection 98-33 include administrative records of the project, biographical files, records of the publication of the second edition of the newspaper publication, materials documenting the effort to have the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., declared a holiday in Nevada, records associated with an essay and a book written by Dr. Elmer Rusco on Black history, print sources for the history of blacks (outside of Nevada), and photographs.

The administrative records include correspondence, some financial materials, and drafts of the text for the exhibit and the publication(s) Nevada Black History: Yesterday and Today. There are folders with information about Black music and poetry by Nevadans, some photocopies of photographs from Utah, and copies of some newspaper sources on Black history in Nevada.

The biographical files contain information about Black Nevadans selected to be included in either the video or the publications about Blacks in Nevada. These individual files usually contain a standard form which the Project used to elicit basic biographical information, supplemented with correspondence or newspaper clippings. Additional information about many of the individuals in this series is contained in Series 3, Second Edition, in the folders labeled "Individual Files." Series 3 also contains some administrative information, primarily about financing the publication.

Series 4 contains information about the Nevada effort to have Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday declared a holiday. Included are correspondence, clippings, speeches and essays, research notes from Dr. Rusco, newsletters from the Reno-Sparks Branch of the NAACP, a Freedom Fund Banquet program, and assorted printed material related to the topic.

Dr. Elmer Rusco's writings about Nevada Black history are represented in two folders. A copy of his essay for the Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History appears in Series 5, as does administrative records related to photographs for the book, Good Time Coming: Black Nevadans in the 19th Century.

As part of the Nevada Black History Project, Dr. Rusco collected many examples of Black publications not related to Nevada, as well as catalogs from which such materials could be obtained. Those publications make up Series 6. Also included in this series are three books which have been kept with the collection, rather than removed and cataloged separately.

The last series consists of photographs, which have been transferred to the photo archives of the Special Collections Department as photo collection P97-56. Although there are some historical images, most of the photographs and the video tape focus on the achievements of Black Nevadans in the last half of the twentieth century. Most of the photographs were taken by professional photographers for this project; others are from public archives and from individuals. Reproductions of photographs from other repositories must be obtained from the agency which holds the original photo. Subjects include individuals (identified and not), groups, events, ceremonies, meetings, parades, historic sites associated with Blacks, cemeteries, buildings, churches, libraries, and neighborhoods.


  • 1966-1997


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Historical Note

The Nevada Black History Project was organized in 1989 to bring to light more of the history of the Black presence in this state. It was co-sponsored by the Northern Nevada Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee and the Northern Nevada Black Cultural Awareness Society.

Funding was provided by those two organizations and by the Nevada Humanities Committee, Nevada's 125th Anniversary Commission, the Hawkins Foundation, and private contributions especially from Maya Miller, William C. Thornton, and Nancy Williams. Dr. Elmer Rusco was project director, Nancy Peppin was project executive, and Leonard Woods was the fiscal agent. They were assisted by two advisory committees in southern and northern Nevada.

Four products were produced by the project: a traveling exhibit with an historical thrust, available for showing throughout Nevada; a 20-minute videotape on the subject, available for borrowing without charge or which may be purchased; a publication, in newspaper/tabloid form, which focused on the achievements of Black Nevadans today and which was issued in two editions (1992 and 1997); and an archives of research materials. The Project collected more than 1,000 photographs, either copy prints or originals, which were deposited in the Special Collections Department, along with the administrative records of the Project.

The Project focused on Nevada individuals and collected a significant amount of biographical information. Nevadans included in the publication were nominated by the two advisory committees and in almost all cases, the data were provided by individuals, supplemented from other sources.

Those wishing information about the traveling exhibit or the videotape should contact:

The Nevada Humanities Committee Box 8029 Reno, NV 89507 775-784-6587 or 800-382-5023

The preceding information was abstracted from the Project's publication, Nevada Black History: Yesterday and Today


2 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Includes administrative records which detail the origins and completion of the project such as correspondence, reports, and text for the exhibit and publication Nevada Black history: yesterday and today; biographical files on 132 contemporary Black Nevadans which may include a vita, newspaper clippings, and correspondence; materials documenting the effort to attain a state holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.; catalogs and other print sources which provide information on publications about Blacks in the U.S., AND photographs relating to black history in Nevada.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Administrative Files; 2) Biographical Files; 3) Second Edition of Nevada Black History: Yesterday and Today; 4) Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday; 5) Elmer Rusco's Writings on Black History; 6) Non-Nevada Print Sources for Black History; 7) Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dr. Elmer Rusco in 1997 on behalf of the Nevada Black History Project.

Related Materials

Related archival materials held by the University of Nevada, Reno Special Collections Department:

Separated Materials

Photographs have been transferred to the photo archives of the Special Collections Department as photo collection UNRS-P1997-56.

Processing Information

On May 27, 2016, box 3 could not be located. Since there was no indication of what the contents might have been, the item record for box 3 was deleted from Sierra and a note to control file created. This box may at one point have contained the photographs that were separated out from the collection. J. Sundstrand


Guide to the Records of the Nevada Black History Project
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)