Black Lives in Alaska
A History of African Americans in the Far Northwest
- PUBLISHED: November 2022
- SUBJECT LISTING: African American Studies, History / American History, Pacific Northwest
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 304 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 22 b&w illus., 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295750927
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
The history of Black Alaskans runs deep and spans generations. Decades before statehood and earlier even than the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s, Black men and women participated in Alaska’s politics and culture. They hunted whales, patrolled the seas, built roads, served in the military, and opened businesses, even as they endured racism and fought injustices. Into the twentieth century, Alaska’s Black residents were often part of the larger, nationwide freedom struggle. At the same time, Black settlers found themselves in a far different context than elsewhere in the United States, as Alaska’s strategic military location, economic reliance on oil, and unique racial landscape influenced how Black Alaskans made a home for themselves in the northwesternmost corner of the country.
Centering the agency and diversity of Black Alaskans, Black Lives in Alaska chronicles how Alaska’s Black population, though small, has had an outsized impact on the culture and civic life of the region. Alaska’s history of race relations and civil rights reminds the reader that the currents of discrimination and its responses—determination, activism, and perseverance—are American stories that might be explored in the unlikeliest of places.
Authors & Contributors
Ian C. Hartman is associate professor of history at the University of Alaska Anchorage. David Reamer is a public historian and journalist who writes for the Anchorage Daily News. Calvin E. Williams is a community activist and former president of the Alaska Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Black Lives in Alaska provides a corrective to [the] flimsy narrative of the state's race relations.- Anchorage Daily News
The book's scope, spanning from the mid-nineteenth to the twenty-first century, is as ambitious as it is comprehensive. Such preference for width over depth ends there, however, as the authors seek to leave no relevant stone unturned in their diligent presentation of Alaska's Black histories.- H-Net Reviews
Black Lives in Alaska is a state survey that is being deeply mined for insights into the experiences of iconic and ordinary Black Alaskans and their quests to overcome systemic racism and to ensure that places like Anchorage live up to African American expectations of equality. Included in this commendable effort are the histories of African Americans living on Alaska’s racial frontier and in urban industrial Anchorage. Consequently, this is a must read for audiences interested in what makes Black Alaskan history and culture significant to the intersections of race-class-gender in The Last Frontier and the Lower 48 states from 1867 to the present.- Herbert G. Ruffin II, author of Uninvited Neighbors: African Americans in Silicon Valley, 1769–1990
Black Lives in Alaska not only dispels the frontier myth that Alaska’s population lacks diversity, but this important book reminds readers that African Americans and their multifaceted contributions reached all regions of the nation, including the Far Northwest.- Katie Ringsmuth, Alaska State Historian and Deputy Historic Preservation Officer
No previous work has so effectively made the argument that an understanding of African Americans’ experiences in Alaska is central to a meaningful understanding of the state’s history.- Kevin Leonard, author of The Battle for Los Angeles: Racial Ideology and World War II