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!

THE OTHER AMERICA – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the two Americas: one America where the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity flows through the streets like water in a river; where no one is hungry, no one is oppressed, and everybody’s needs are met, mentally and physically. The other America tragically also exists. In this other America, “millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America, millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

America is considered the “mixing pot” where people of all cultures live. However, the vast majority of BIPOC live in the “other America.” King specifically describes black people. Black people live in “a ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery.” The Civil Rights Movement aims to deal with the division of the Americas, trying to mend America so it can be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. As of 1967 (when King had said this speech), America had overcome many struggles in the fight for equality: legal segregation (getting rid of Jim Crow laws). But, they are facing their biggest challenge now: genuine equality. Black people and other minorities (specifically Indigenous and Hispanic people) still live in under served/low-income areas because of redlining that had taken place 50+ years ago. At the time of King’s speech, black people had an unemployment rate more than double that of the nation’s unemployment rate. America has made advances in racial justice and racial equality, but it has also taken steps backward.

Thus, we are met with riots to enforce the changes that the people want. Riots do not appear out of thin air, rather they are the result of continued oppression and the language of the unheard. “And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Black poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity… Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

A/N: I only took extracts from the speech. I have attached the speech transcript here.