Anchorage School Board adds name of pioneering Black educator to Fairview Elementary

a class photo from 1960 of a teacher and students
Etheldra Davis and her class at the old Government Hill School in 1960. (Photo courtesy of the Antoine family)

The Anchorage School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to commemorate the district’s first Black teacher and principal by adding her name to her neighborhood‘s elementary school.

Etheldra Davis moved to Anchorage in 1959 from Los Angeles and was the first Black teacher hired on contract with the Anchorage School District. She later became principal of Fairview Elementary in 1969, another first for a Black educator. At the time, many Anchorage neighborhoods had restrictive covenants preventing Black and Alaska Native people from buying homes. 

“We had segregation right here in Anchorage people aren’t really talking about,” said Andrea Antoine, Davis’ daughter.

Antoine said when her mother moved to Anchorage, the Fairview neighborhood was one of few places Black families could buy property. 

“She was able to come to the Last Frontier, with dirt roads, because there were dirt roads in Fairview when we moved there,” Antoine said. “And to become the first Black teacher and principal, that’s saying something.”

Davis died in November from complications due to COVID-19. Shortly after, advocates in the Fairview neighborhood along with the Anchorage NAACP circulated a petition to name Fairview Elementary School after Davis to commemorate her legacy as a trailblazing educator. 

For Antoine, she also sees her mother’s legacy in other Black education leaders in Anchorage like School Board president Margo Bellamy.

“To see that manifest, that is her legacy,” Antoine said. “Progress in the community that she loved.”

Antoine said she hopes the name change and her mother’s story will inspire students to learn about other role models in their communities.

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Wesley is a reporter for Alaska Public Media, covering primarily city government and Anchorage life. He previously worked at Alaska Public Media as a web editor, producer and education reporter before a two-year stint in Kotzebue, AK as News Director for KOTZ-AM.

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