In 1945, Elizabeth (Wanamaker) Peratrovich (Tlingit Nation) a civil rights activist was instrumental in gaining passage of America’s first anti-discrimination law. Her husband Roy (also Tlingit Nation) was mayor of their small Alaskan town for several years, but they moved to Juneau, Alaska for greater opportunities for their children.
There, they encountered “No Natives Allowed” signs, along with other discrimination. They worked for passage of the Alaska Anti-Discrimination Act until it finally came before the Senate. Elizabeth gave the final testimony at the hearing. Sen. Allan Shattuck had earlier asked, “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?”
In 1988, Alaska named February 16th, the day the law passed, as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.”
Elizabeth responded, “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”
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