Blanche Mcsmith

Blanche McSmith

First Black Person to Serve in the Alaska State Legislature

Blanche McSmith is the first African American to serve in the Alaska State Legislature. Blanche moved to Alaska with her husband in 1949, where they opened McSmith Enterprises, a television and radio service store. In 1951, Blanche worked with others to establish the Anchorage branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving as branch president in 1959. Later that year, Governor William Egan appointed Blanche to fill a seat in the 10th District of the Alaska House of Representatives. During her tenure in the State Legislature, Blanche promoted fair housing, proposing an ordinance that was later adopted by the Anchorage City Council in 1967. Blanche continued to promote equality in the public and private sectors, moving to Juneau in 1972 to serve as Director in the Office of the Governor for the Public Employment Program, where she worked to end employment discrimination in Alaska.

Image credits: Ward Wells Collection; Anchorage Museum, B1983.091.C184; Ward Wells Collection; Anchorage Museum, B1983.091.C184 cropped to show detail; Ward Wells Collection, Anchorage Museum, B1983.091.C259.9.3

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