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Evaluation by Roosevelt Fitzgerald of Elmer Rusco's Good Time Coming: Black Nevadans in the Nineteenth Century: unpublished manuscript




1970 (year approximate) to 1996 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Unpublished manuscripts file.

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man000952. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Good Time Coming: Black Nevadans In the Nineteenth Century. By Elmer R. Rusco. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975- XIX+216 pp. Illustrations, tables, bibliography and index. During the 1972 Olympics, Schlitz Brewing Company, one of the television sponsors, introduced a series of commercials which were absolutely appropriate. Appropriate because several participants accontp- lished precisely what those commercials suggested-- they entered "unexplored territory". Elmer Rusco’s Good Time Coming has taken the study of the history of Nevada into formerly unexplored territory. Not only does it bring heretofore unknown information of black involvement in the early settlement of Nevada to light but also the nature of the lives of Blacks in Nevada and their response to racism during the nineteenth century.
The arrival of this treatment by Rusco goes far in eliminating the possibility in the minds of so many that racial problems in this state is of relatively recent origins. So many find it convenient to believe that the latter is a result of recent arrivals who brought their negative racial attitudes with them and as a result, in comparison with other areas of the country, Nevada is not "quite so awful". Just as was the case at the Constitutional Convention held at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787, the Nevada Constitutional Conventions also addressed the presence of Blacks in Nevada and how they were to be regarded in terms of Constitutional rightsand privileges. Good Time Coming more than conclusively points out the fact that the South had no monopoly on denying rights to blacks. Rusco recounts the treatment of blacks in "spockish" detail. He gives a step by step progression of these and points out that even in the nineteenth century Nevada
was slow in assuming leadership in matters relevant to racial
-2- questions. The desire to follow a "wait and see" policy which originated during the territorial days continues until the present.
Rusco’s book is well researched and employs a broad range of sources. It provides a useful service for researchers and directors of research in western black history by the mere fact that it unearths sources in which other possible researchers might use elsewhere. It combines biographical, historical and sociological analysis of the conditions in which nineteenth century Nevada blacks lived. It-is rich, suggestive and honest and provides the first treatment, of a scholarly nature, of blacks in the state of Nevada. The study of blacks in the west, particularly in the area of the Great Basin, has been ignored. This treatment provides a first class study out of which there should spring additional writing. The extent of his documentation is but one of the strong points of the book. I feel that this is so because it indicates that even in an area where the total number of blacks in the population is minimal there is an abundance of relevant material. The introduction of this book should do much in revolutionizing the writing and teaching of state histories. It suggests clearly that it is liter- ally impossible to realistically document the history of a place without due consideration being given to minority people found there.
Heretofore, a chapter or two, in those very progressive instances, have been set aside for discussion of minority involvement. These have generally concerned themselves only with twentieth century matters. The approach of seeing the black presence as either an antebellum or post World War II phenomena ends with this calibre of scholarship.
In recent years interpretations of the black movement have more often than not stressed its negative side by suggesting that
blacks are making unwarranted demands. Rusco’s Good Time Coming points out clearly, at least in Nevada, that the causes of these twentieth century demands could have been dominated had white Nevadans of the nineteenth century not created the circumstances, against the wishes of the few black Nevadans who were here, which have made.these kinds of responses possible. Good Time Coming illuminates the roots of the causes and places the burden of the twentieth century problems where it should be placed—not on the victim but on the victimizer.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Roosevelt Fitzgerald Coordinator of Ethnic Studies