On Alaska Highway Day, recognizing African American soldiers and their contributions to historic roadway

This Oct. 25, 1942, photo provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office of History, shows...
This Oct. 25, 1942, photo provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office of History, shows Corporal Refines Slims, Jr., left, and Private Alfred Jalufka shaking hands at the "Meeting of Bulldozers" for the ALCAN Highway in the Yukon Territory in Beaver Creek, Alaska. Nearly 4,000 segregated black soldiers helped build the highway across Alaska and Canada during World War II, a contribution largely ignored for decades but drawing attention as the 75th anniversary approaches. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Office of History via AP)(uncredited | AP)
Published: Oct. 25, 2020 at 8:35 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - October 25 is also known as Alaska Highway Day, following law passed within Senate Bill 46 in 2017 and commemorating the historic contributions made by African American soldiers in developing the Alaska Highway, which is also considered one of the largest and most difficult construction projects completed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The road stretches 1,422 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska, and cost about $138 million dollars back when it was completed in 1942. The highway was also finished ahead of schedule, despite hard conditions and problems with equipment, with much of the work done by African American soldiers decades ago: On October 25, 1942, the 97th Engineer Regiment heading south met the white troops from the 18th Engineer Regiment heading north, and completed the road’s last link, according to the Alaska Legislature.

“This is history we should all know," said Rep. Geran Tarr (D), “[...] and recognize the incredible work of the African American soldiers.

“This summer, conversations about systemic racism reminded me of their work,” she continued, "as they were given bad equipment, minimal supplies, and were even segregated from the communities they worked near. We can’t change the wrongs of the past, but we must understand our history.”

With the help of Jean Pollard of the Alaska Highway Memorial Project and Alaska Highway Project Teams, the day is officially marked in recognition of the highway and those who made so many sacrifices to make it come to life.

The Anchorage School District is also now incorporating a curriculum on the highway and its development into their Alaska history studies.

“As an educator, it brings me great joy to know that Anchorage School District students will be learning this important part of our history," Pollard said. “The Alaska Highway remains the biggest infrastructure project completed in this country. All of our students can be proud to know the importance of this route to our national security, and the importance of the work done by these soldiers. We need to keep sharing this story.”

You can learn more about this by watching our video in the article, Alaska Highway Project honors Black History Month with ‘Frozen in History’.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.