Credit: UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library Archives, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Region I Photograph Collection
NAACP float, Fairbanks Winter Carnival Parade, 1960
Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) repeatedly declined to charter a branch in Alaska, since it was not yet a state. In 1951, a racist arson attack created a new sense of urgency and national leadership granted the territory its first branch in Anchorage. It didn’t take long for the NAACP to emerge as a hub for civil rights mobilization. John W. Thomas, Blanche McSmith, Clarence and Flossie Coleman, Joseph M. Jackson, John S. Parks, and Richard Watts are a few of the names associated with the early days of the NAACP in Alaska. These individuals would later assume leadership roles at the city and state level. The NAACP remains a focal point of Black activism and civic engagement in Alaska.