Monday, February 13, 2012

Historical Records & Elizabeth Peratrovich Day

Every February 16th the state holiday of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is observed because of the Civil Rights actions of Elizabeth W. Peratrovich (1911-1958), Tlingit Indian and civic leader from Southeast Alaska. The day is connected to the February 16, 1945 signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act, an Alaskan territorial bill passed which made it illegal to discriminate against individuals because of race.
While many Alaska Natives engaged in Civil and Human Rights actions prior to the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 and the holiday commemorates all Alaska Natives involved in the Civil Rights crusade, for many the holiday’s focus centers on Peratrovich’s impassioned speech before the territorial legislature which swayed legislators to vote in favor of passing the Anti-Discrimination Act.

In honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, a letter from our archival collections written by Elizabeth Peratrovich and her husband Roy Peratrovich is provided below. This 1941 co-authored letter, written while Elizabeth was Grand Vice President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and her husband Grand President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, called on the territorial governor, Ernest Gruening, to address discrimination in the Juneau-Douglas community and on a state level. Gruening followed this mandate, and worked alongside Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich and other Alaska Natives toward the eventual passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act in 1945.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Peratrovich, circa 1945 (in black coat). Photograph by William Paul Jr., in SHI's Digital Collection, courtesy of Ben Paul.

Document Credit: Letter, from Mss 29: ANB Camp 2 Records, Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit representing the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.

No comments: