Alaska Black History: celebrating Blanche McSmith and Willard Bowman as early voices for justice

There is a long history of Black people coming to Alaska for a wide range of opportunities, working hard and making a name for themselves. Blanche McSmith is one of them. She was Alaska’s first Black state legislator and a fearless advocate. University of Alaska Associate professor Ian Hartman shares about her contributions to Alaska.

In 1963, Willard Bowman became the first Director of Alaska’s Commission on Human rights. In 1970, he became one of the first Black men elected to the state legislature. An Anchorage elementary school is named for him. His son, Gregory Bowman, recounts some memories of his father.

Emily Schwing contributed to this report.

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