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Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 and Elizabeth Peratrovich

Elizabeth Peratrovich, Alaska Native woman.
Portrait of Elizabeth Peratrovich.
Alaska State Library, Amy Lou Blood Barney Collection. ASL-P597-2159.

House Bill 14, known generally as the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, was the first anti-discrimination law in Alaskan history. The law made it illegal to discriminate based on race. The bill was approved on Feb. 16, 1945 by the Alaskan Territorial Legislature.

This legislation was initially proposed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) and Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS), organizations composed primarily of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people from Southeast Alaska. Although the ANB and ANS contacted government officials various times prior to 1945, the first attempt to pass an anti-discrimination act failed in 1943. Two years later the campaign for its passage was championed by ANB and ANS Grand Presidents Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich (also husband and wife). Their tireless effort spent working with Governor of Alaska Earnest Gruening, and speaking of the bill's benefit to legislators resulted in enough votes to see the legislation passed.

Elizabeth Peratrovich's 1945 speech before the Legislature has been highly credited as being influential in the bill's passage. The law made discriminatory actions punishable with up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

In 1988 the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in order to honor her contributions, "for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska" (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).

Primary Sources

Opinion of Territorial Attorney General John Rustgard

Description Opinion of Territorial Attorney General John Rustgard regarding civil rights for Indians in response to a discrimination complaint by Henry and Louise Johnson.
Date created 1924
Repository Alaska State Archives
Citation John Rustard, Opinions of the Attorney General of Alaska, Volume 3, in Box VS 654, Office of the Territorial Attorney General Records, Alaska State Archives.
Online access Opinions of Territorial Attorney General John Rustgard regarding Civil Rights for Indians and Equal Rights of Tax Disbursement [Alaska's Digital Archives]

Photograph of Elizabeth Wanamaker

Description Photograph of Elizabeth Wanamaker [Peratrovich] as a child with her parents, including her mother Jean Williams Wanamaker and father Andrew Wanamaker.
Date created undated
Repository Alaska State Library, Historical Collections
Citation Alaska State Library, David and Mary Waggoner Photo Collection, PCA-492-III-Andrew-Wanamaker-1.
Online access Andrew Wanamaker, his wife and daughter. [Alaska's Digital Archives]

Correspondence and papers concerning Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich

Description Correspondence and papers concerning Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich as held by Governor Ernest Gruening.
Dates created 1943-1946
Repository Alaska State Library, Historical Collections
Citation Description of letter or document being cited. [Example may include: Jane Doe, Letter to John Doe, Juneau, Feb. 16, 1945], Box VS 572, Office of the District and Territorial Governor Records, Alaska State Archives.
Online access Correspondence and papers concerning Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich [Alaska's Digital Archives]

Secondary Sources

Newspaper account of the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act

Description Newspaper account of the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Act and Elizabeth Peratrovich's speech in front of the Legislature.
Date created 1945
Repository Alaska State Library
Citation “Super race theory hit in hearing: Native Sisterhood president hits at rights bill opposition,” Daily Alaskan Empire (Feb. 6, 1945): 8.
Online access Superior race theory hit in hearing [Alaska's Digital Archives]

House Bill 14

Description House Bill 14, known as the Anti-Discrimination Act, from Laws of Alaska. Shows full text of the bill passed by the Alaskan Territorial Legislature.
Date created 1945
Repository Alaska State Archives
Citation H.B. 14, Laws of Alaska. 17th Regular Session, Territorial Legislature. Feb. 16, 1945, pp. 35-36.
Online access House Bill 14 [Alaska's Digital Archives]

Voting record of the Alaskan House of Representatives regarding House Bill 14

Description Voting record of the Alaskan House of Representatives regarding House Bill 14, known as the Anti-Discrimination Act, from Journal of the House of Representatives. Voting by the House occurred on Feb. 1, 1945, with 19 voting for passage, and 5 voting against passage of the law.
Date created 1945
Repository Alaska State Archives
Citation Voting record for H.B. 14, Feb. 1, 1945, in Journal of the House of Representatives. 17th Session, Territorial Legislature, pp. 116-119.
Online access Voting record of the Alaskan House of Representatives regarding H.B. 14 [Alaska's Digital Archives]

Fighter in Velvet Gloves

Description Author Annie Boochever worked with Elizabeth's eldest son, Roy Peratrovich Jr., to bring Elizabeth's story to life in the first book written for young teens on this remarkable Alaska Native woman.
Date created 2019
Repository Alaska Digital Archives
Citation Boochever, Annie, and Roy Jr. Peratrovich,. Fighter in Velvet Gloves, 2019.
Online access Fighter in Velvet Gloves [Alaska Digital Library]

Additional Resources

  • Duncan, Pauline (1999). Elizabeth Peratrovich: Native Civil Rights Leader. (Sitka: Children of the Tidelands Publishing).
  • Oleksa, Michael (1994). "Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, Roy Peratrovich, Sr.," in Haa Kusteeyí, Our Culture: Tlingit Life Stories, ed. by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer, (Seattle: University of Washington Press). pp. 525–544.
  • Elizabeth Peratrovich and Alaska's 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act. Last accessed December 12, 2018.

Page last updated 01/31/2020