The Anchorage Park Foundation is pleased to announce the Alaska Highway Project honoring the African-American Army Engineers who built the historic Alaska Highway in 1942.
The new memorial benches in Cuddy Family Midtown Park are dedicated to the African American Army Engineers of the 93rd, 95th, and 97th who built the historic Alaska (ALCAN) Highway during World War II ultimately ending segregation in the U.S. military in 1948. Also to the 388th who worked on the Canol Pipeline project and completed the Sikanni Chief River Bridge on October 28, 1942.
As a result of their achievements in Alaska, the U.S. Military was integrated on July 31, 1948.
On Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 the public is invited to celebrate this community milestone at the park with Senator Bettye Davis and Alaska State Legislators, U.S. Air Force and Army, City Officials, ASD Superintendent Dr. Jim Browder, teachers, and students.
A poem commemorating the history of the event:
Two Roads to Civil Rights
(A Poetic History of the Alaska Highway)
1942 was an era where Jim Crow laws,
and segregation were common place.
Where blacks and whites did not work
together, though both were of the human race.
The military had a separate rule.
They weren’t to send blacks to a cold state.
If blacks were sent, they couldn’t go into towns,
this cruelty was meant to intimidate.
Can you imagine using pickaxes, to
chop away glaciers you can’t go around?
Or to live in an isolated tent city,
and not be allowed to go into town?
Can you imagine sleep trying to flee from you
& you wonder what’s that sound that you hear
Only to find that it’s not others working at night,
It’s hundreds of mosquitoes circling your ear.
Many worked about 20 hours a day, w/poor
clothing, low temperatures, and little food.
But each black soldier coming from the South,
refused to let mistreatment alter his mood.
How could he remain so positive, when his
circumstances begged him to complain?
It must have been that daily prayer,
led by Edward Carroll, his army chaplain.
He endured prejudice and substandard treatment,
His used truck was destined for salvage,
Yet this soldier continued to move ahead, every
inch, every step, not counting the mileage.
His clothing was unsuitable, for the harsh
climate, as well as the cloth tent that he used.
Though his white counter parts resided in
Quonset huts, he did not rebel at be abused.
He showed camaraderie, by his strong work
ethics and his tenacity to forge ahead.
He showed strength when at 60 below,
the frozen ground and snow was his bed.
The Alaska portion of the highway, was the
most difficult and hazardous to defeat,
It’s built by the African American Army Engineers,
who never showed any signs of retreat.
He had no way of knowing as he
pushed his bulldozer towards Canada,
that the highway would be compared.
to the building of the canal in Panama.
Finally a commander took notice and said:
“These men did an exceptional job under duress.
They never showed anger or sadness.
They never showed any signs of stress.
We don’t just honor them for building a highway,
so we can drive from here to Nebraska,
But we honor them for opening up integration,
and it started first in the state of Alaska.
Corporal Refines Sims was heading South,
when he saw the forest fall in the breeze.
As he backed up, Private Alfred Jalufka,
came bulldozing down a group of trees.
Because of them doing so well on this project,
which is now something that we do know.
The U. S. Military became integrated.
They were the first government agency to do so!
We honor the legacy of Dr. King,
because he never yielded to any fights.
He just peacefully “MARCHED” on the road,
to bring about civil rights.
We honor the African American Army Engineers,
because they endured the freezing cold nights,
and the cruel heat of injustice,
to “BUILD” the road towards civil rights.
(C) E. Jean Pollard, 2012