‘Vintage Las Vegas’ Unearths Details About Black Showgirl, Delcenia Boyd

More information unveils history of Moulin Rouge dancer, Delcenia Boyd

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For decades, this iconic photograph of Delcenia Boyd has been synonymous with the short-lived Moulin Rouge, the first racially integrated hotel-casino in Las Vegas. According to historian “Vintage Las Vegas,” it was taken May 22, 1955 by Jay Florian Mitchell and used to publicize the resort in Black newspapers around the country. However, her name was misspelled as “Dolcinia” in the original photograph and she’s been unnamed or misidentified in many publications and records since.

Many have her listed simply as “a showgirl” in the captions. Others have her incorrectly ID’d as her sister. Much of that discrepancy likely stems from another photograph of Delcenia published in the Review-Journal on May 12, 1955, which mistook her for her older sister and instead identified her as “Theodora Boyd.” Many uses of this photograph have listed her as Theodora in the captions ever since. The Neon Museum features this image prominently in its new Las Vegas Luminaries mural and recently called for the public’s help in obtaining more information as details have been scant.

“Vintage Las Vegas” answered that call and discovered the historical error. He was able to unearth previously unknown, or at least little known, details about Delcenia’s life.

According to “Vintage Las Vegas,” Delcenia and Theodora grew up in Harlem where they performed modern dance and ballet. Choreographer Clarence Robinson of Harlem’s famed Cotton Club brought the pair to the Moulin Rouge in 1955, but the sisters didn’t stay in Vegas long. Delcenia returned to New York to study, where she earned multiple degrees and went on to become a teacher. She died in 2019.

“Vintage Las Vegas,” who has been in contact with Delcenia’s relatives, shares more photographs of and details about Delcenia on his page. This information is critical to preserving Las Vegas’ often neglected Black history. Kudos to Vintage Las Vegas for his relentless and detailed work in sharing these stories.

Feature image courtesy of Jay Florian Mitchell, UNLV Special Collections.

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