WHO IS ELIZABETH PERATROVICH?

Elizabeth Peratrovich, Who Fought for America's Earliest  Anti-Discrimination Law, to Become 1st Alaska Native Featured on U.S.  Currency | KTLA
Elizabeth Peratrovich; pic creds: KTLA

Asking you to give me equal rights implies that they are yours to give. Instead, I must demand that you stop trying to deny me the rights all people deserve.

Elizabeth Peratrovich (1911-1958)

Today’s (Wednesday, December 30) Google Doodle honors Elizabeth Peratrovich a civil rights activist who advocated and fought for equality for Native Alaskans. During the 1940s, Peratrovich and her husband, both members of the Tlingit nation, were instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 which was the first state or territorial anti-discrimination law enacted in the United States in the 20th century. As Alaskan Natives, Peratrovich and her husband encountered discrimination while trying to secure housing and trying to gain access to public facilities; at the time, it wasn’t uncommon to see door signs that read “No Natives Allowed,” and upon seeing one with her husband, they wrote a letter to Alaska’s governor and gained his support.

The Act was proposed earlier but failed to pass; however, on February 5, 1945 following years of perseverance, a second anti-discrimination bill was brought before the Alaska Senate. Both Peratrovichs, as the Presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood, advocated and testified for the bill. She famously spoke in response to territorial senator Allen Shattuck, who 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?,”

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.

Elizabeth Peratrovich when testifying for the Anti-Discriminatory Act of 1945

The Senate voted 11-5 in favor of the Act. The bill was signed into law in 1945, nearly 20 years before the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 making Alaska the first territory or state to end “Jim Crow.” In honor of Peratrovich’s legacy, the Alaska Legislature declared that February 16 (the day in 1945 on which the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed) as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.”

To be honest, I had no idea who was Elizabeth Peratrovich until I saw the Google Doodle for today. But, after I researched more about her, I knew I had to share this activist who was a catalyst for equality! If you want to learn more about her and her legacy, I would recommend checking out today’s Google Doodle and some of the other sites that I will be linking down below!

https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-elizabeth-peratrovich

Also, I am sorry that I have been slacking with posts recently. I will be coming out of my hiatus soon and reverting back to my regular Wednesday posts! I have been caught up with applications and finals, but they will soon be over. I have many ideas for more posts, so please look forward to them!