5 Nevadans that shaped Black History Month 

Feb 24, 2022

To honor Black History Month, we are showcasing prominent African American Nevadans and local Black-owned businesses throughout the month of February. 

Aaron Ford: Nevada Attorney General 

Elected in 2019, Aaron Ford is the first African American to hold a statewide constitutional office in Nevada. During his term as a State Senator, he led the passage of significant legislation that required police officers to wear body cameras. His priority areas include what he refers to as the “Five Cs:”  constitutional rights, criminal justice reform, consumer protection, client service, and community engagement. Ford has held several town hall forums to talk directly with Nevadans on relevant topics such as racial injustice, law enforcement policies, hate crimes, and identity theft.

Bernice Mathews

Mathews is the first African-American woman elected to the Reno City Council and the Nevada State Senate. During her 18 years in the Nevada State Senate, Mathews served as the assistant minority leader and was on the committees of Finance, Legislative Operations and Elections, and Natural Resources. While in the legislature Mathews was a dedicated proponent of education and women’s rights. She also is a small business owner and the director of the nursing program at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno.

Joseph M. Neal Jr.

Joseph Neal was Nevada’s first African-American State Senator who served more than three decades (1972-2004) in the legislative chamber, advocating for Nevada workers. Known as “The Westside Slinger” and “Conscience of the Legislature,” Neal’s first bill was passed in 1973 to restore the rights of felons. Neal also helped state senators in 1977 pass the Equal Rights Amendment out of that half of the Legislature, despite failing to pass in the Assembly. Neal passed away Dec. 31, 2021. 

Hattie Canty 

Hattie Canty is the first Black president of the Culinary Union Local 226 movement in Las Vegas, a position that enabled her to significantly improve the standard of living for tens of thousands of workers in Las Vegas’s booming hotel and casino industry. She was known as one of the greatest strike leaders in U.S. history and fought for integration and equality for minorities; upon her election to the union presidency in 1990, Canty thrust herself into limelight by leading a series of highly publicized strikes.

Frank Hawkins

After his 3-time All American and Super Bowl-winning NFL career with the (Oakland) Raiders, Frank Hawkins became a City Of Las Vegas Council Member and a board member of the Las Vegas Housing Authority. The former University of Nevada football alumnus now works to build affordable housing in low-income inner-city neighborhoods in Las Vegas.