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Alice Key

Community activist, dancer, and newspaper columnist Alice Marie Key was born on March 18, 1911, in Henderson, Kentucky to Louise and Malcolm Key. As a young child, she moved to Riverside, California with her family. She finished high school in Riverside and then went to the University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a degree in journalism. Her mother managed a coffee shop near the famous Club Alabama in central Los Angeles, California. Key met a girl there who worked at the Cotton Club in Culver City, California, who eventually persuaded her to dance at the club, too. She left school and danced for the next five years.

Key’s career as a dancer took her to New York where she worked at the Ubangi Club, and later, she spent six months in Europe touring with the Cotton Club Show. In 1943, Key ended her dancing career and started working as a writer for an African American newspaper, the "Los Angeles Tribune." In 1954, she moved to Las Vegas to take a job working for the "Las Vegas Voice." Not long after her arrival, Key and Bob Bailey started the first all-African American television talk show in Las Vegas, "Talk of the Town," which she co-hosted for several months. In the 1960s, Key became the public relations manager for the Nevada Committee for the Rights of Women, which promoted education about birth control and fought for reforms to the abortion laws in Nevada. After that position, she worked for the Economic Opportunity Board until 1971. In 1983, Governor Richard Bryan named Key as the Deputy Commissioner of Labor, a position she held for ten years. She became involved in political campaigns, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and founded the Barbara Jordan Democratic Women’s Club. When she retired from public service, Key worked to preserve the history of African Americans in Las Vegas through the Moulin Rouge Preservation Association and the Black History Society, Inc. On July 20, 2005, Key was inducted into KLAS, Channel 8’s Wall of Fame.

Key resided until her death on September 29, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her dedication to equality and commitment to her community helped to lower barriers faced by women and African Americans in Nevada. She had one daughter, Alice McAbee, two grandsons, and several great-grandchildren.

Alice Marie Key was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 31, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.313

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/31/2007

Last Name

Key

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Marie

Schools

Longfellow Elementary School

Riverside Polytechnic High School

University of California, Los Angeles

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alice

Birth City, State, Country

Henderson

HM ID

KEY02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

Born To Serve.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

3/18/1911

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chitterlings

Death Date

9/29/2010

Short Description

Community activist and newspaper columnist Alice Key (1911 - 2010 ) was the co-host of the first all-African American television talk show in Las Vegas, 'Talk of the Town,' and was active in fighting for civil rights in Nevada and California. She worked to preserve the history of African Americans in Las Vegas through the Moulin Rouge Preservation Association and the Black History Society, Inc.

Employment

Cotton Club

Ubangi Club

Los Angeles Tribune

Las Vegas Voice

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

State of Nevada

Favorite Color

Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alice Key's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alice Key lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alice Key describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alice Key describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alice Key talks about her maternal foster grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alice Key describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alice Key describes her maternal family's involvement in Riverside, California

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alice Key describes her neighborhood in Riverside, California

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alice Key recalls her political efforts in Riverside, California

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alice Key describes her experiences in Riverside, California's public schools

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Alice Key remembers her childhood burn and healing

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Alice Key describes her experiences at Riverside Polytechnic High School in Riverside, California

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Alice Key describes her experiences at University of California, Los Angeles

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alice Key talks about the role of the chorus girl

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alice Key recalls dancing as a chorus girl at Frank Sebastian's Cotton Club in Culver City, California

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alice Key remembers Louis Armstrong

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alice Key remembers Duke Ellington

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alice Key describes her move to the Cotton Club in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alice Key describes her experiences at the Cotton Club in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alice Key describes the Cotton Club's European tour

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alice Key recalls her final performance as a chorus girl, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alice Key remembers adopting her daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alice Key recalls her final performance as a chorus girl, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alice Key describes her relationship with Lena Horne

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alice Key recalls reporting on the segregation of donated blood by the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alice Key remembers Lena Horne and Paul Robeson

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alice Key remembers Joe Louis

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alice Key remembers hosting a show for the United Service Organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alice Key remembers her move to Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Alice Key describes her involvement in voter registration

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alice Key talks about segregation in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alice Key describes her working relationship with William "Bob" Bailey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alice Key recalls the closure of the Moulin Rouge Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alice Key describes her political activities

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alice Key recalls serving as the editor of the Las Vegas Voice

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alice Key talks about the Nevada Committee for the Rights of Women

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alice Key remembers Nat King Cole

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alice Key remembers Billie Holiday, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alice Key remembers Billie Holiday, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alice Key describes her work with the State of Nevada

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alice Key describes her involvement with the Nevada Democratic Party

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Alice Key describes her role at the NAACP chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Alice Key recalls serving as the deputy commissioner of labor for the State of Nevada

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Alice Key talks about her organizational involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Alice Key remembers moving back to Riverside, California

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Alice Key recalls being honored by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Alice Key talks about the Las Vegas Black Historical Society, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Alice Key reflects upon her life, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Alice Key describes her advice to aspiring entertainers and activists

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Alice Key reflects upon her life, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Alice Key reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Alice Key describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Alice Key reflects upon her values

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Alice Key describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Alice Key talks about the importance of history

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Alice Key describes the WonderChild-SHEROES project

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Alice Key narrates her photographs