One issue that is just now catching the attention of main stream media is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s apparent attitudes towards African Americans due to a recent disclosure that she made racially insensitive statements of her intention to not hire any blacks during her gubernatorial administration. In an illuminating post dated September 12, 2008 on the internet blog Electronic Village, the writer comments on Gov. Palin snub of Alaskan African American citizens who invited her to the annual Juneteenth celebration, an event which all past Alaskan governors had attended. Although numerous politicians made it out to the celebration, including, as reported in the Anchorage Daily News on June 15, 2008, “a booth full of Democrats,” no one from the governor’s office even responded to requests for an appearance by Gov. Sarah Palin.
Villagers, my view is that character is measured by the things you do when nobody is looking. Do you wonder what vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was thinking about African Americans before she stepped onto the national stage?
The following is a statement from one of the Juneteenth Directors in Alaska:
“As for Governor Sarah Palin’s involvement in the African American community, the Governor’s office hasn’t participated in any of our Alaska Juneteenth Events. All previous Alaskan Governor’s have traditionally attended and participated in our annual Juneteenth Celebration. Gov. Palin was the first governor not to send out a congratulatory letter or assist us in any way with our Juneteenth activities.I didn’t have the courtesy of receiving a reply when I asked for a representative from the Governor’s office to come and speak at our Juneteenth Celebration if Governor Palin was unable to attend. I never even heard of Gov. Palin until she was elected Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in Mat-Su Valley.
Governor Palin is a very energetic and spontaneous woman. With some of the things being said and going around this state right now, I’m surprised none of the national media have bothered to come here and get the words directly from the mouths of the people who have lived with her all of these years instead of ‘surfing the net!’My other opinion is why would an individual who, to my knowledge, has not hired any African Americans on her gubernatorial staff, insist so passionately on being on a television show owned and operated by an African American, Oprah Winfrey?
While meeting with Black leaders concerning the absence of any African Americans on her staff, Gov. Palin responded that she doesn’t have to hire any Blacks and was not intending to hire any. What kind of attitude is this toward African American for who may be the first Vice-President of the United States?I understand Oprah did have Senator Obama on her show a few times and was the main person raising funds for him “before” the presidency race was in full swing. However, the key point here is that it is Oprah’s prerogative not be used as a pawn to tilt the vote one way or another. Oprah has stated repeatedly that she wasn’t going to have one side or the other on her show by choice. I thought that was what the Civil Rights Movement was all about, a persons right to make their own choices. I guess this isn’t a Democracy at all anymore.”
African American / Blacks
After the Civil War, many of the black men who migrated to Alaska were seafarers who worked in the whaling and fur trade in the North Pacific and who remained to take up residence in the Alaska territory. The discovery of gold brought more blacks to Alaska. For four years, the one hundred fifty-eight black members of Company L, 24th Infantry, US Army were stationed at Dyea and Skagway to preserve law and order and to show the flag. Some members stayed.
World War II brought an influx of blacks to Alaska as the military began work on the Alaska Highway and to fortify Alaska. Black military engineers and port battalions were assigned to Alaska. More than 3,000 black engineers worked on the Alaska Highway. Black battalions were also assigned to the Aleutian Islands during the Aleutian campaign.
Since statehood, many blacks in Alaska have been associated with the military. They have been stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Fort Richardson (Anchorage), Eielson Air Force base, Fort Wainwright (Fairbanks), Fort Greely (Delta Junction) or with the Coast Guard in Juneau, Ketchikan or Kodiak. Many members of the military select Alaska as their place of permanent residence and choose to remain in the state when retiring. Over the years, the African-American population levels have fluctuated with the number of military personnel assigned to each base in Alaska. (Courtesy of the Alaska History & Cultural Studies)