Press Release: 17-059
ANCHORAGE– Governor Bill Walker today signed into law Senate Bill 46, which designates October 25 of each year as “African American Soldiers’ Contribution to Building the Alaska Highway Day.” The bill recognizes the contributions of African American soldiers in building the Alaska Highway, and commemorates their extraordinary efforts, which served as a catalyst for the desegregation of the military in 1948. The legislation was sponsored by Senator David Wilson (R-Wasilla), and carried in the House by Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage). Governor Walker signed the bill in ceremonies at Shiloh Baptist Church, and the Anchorage Park Strip Veterans’ Memorial.
“The accomplishments of the regiments of African American soldiers and their work on the Alaska Highway are truly extraordinary,” Governor Walker said. “These men overcame incredible barriers and hardship as well as abject racial discrimination to complete one of the engineering marvels of the world in just over eight months. Their efforts and sacrifice deserve recognition, and I am proud to sign Sen. Wilson’s legislation, which finally gives them their due.”
Four regiments of African American Army Engineers – soldiers from the 93rd, 95th, and 97th Engineer General Services Regiments, and the 388th Engineer Battalion – were deployed to Alaska to assist in building the roughly 1,500-mile road during World War II. In addition to facing racial segregation and discrimination, the African American soldiers were provided poorer quality materials and tools to complete their work than other regiments. They nonetheless exceeded expectations, and completed their sections of the highway faster than any others. On October 25, 1942, the 93rd and 95th regiments met at Contact Creek to connect the two segments of the highway. Because of its ultimate impact on racial desegregation, the Federal Highway Administration has called the Alaska Highway “the road to civil rights.”