Today’s Her’s Day Thursday star is one I’m sure hardly any of us have heard of but NEED to know about! Her name is: Alberta Schneck Adams.
Alberta was born in Nome, Alaska to parents Albert and Mary. Albert was a veteran of World War I and was white, while Mary was of Inupiat heritage. During this time in Alaska, indigenous peoples faced harsh racism, much like the segregation of African Americans in the south. There were separate schools, eateries, and movie theaters for those of native tribal heritage. This did NOT sit well with Alberta, especially when she found herself on the enforcing side of this antiquated way of thinking.
In 1944, Alberta worked as an usher at the Alaska Dream Theater in Nome. Her job was to make sure the only people who sat in the “whites only” section were indeed white. As you can imagine, this made her very uncomfortable. After all, Alberta was of Inupiat descent! She lodged a complaint to her manager and was quickly fired. Soon after her dismissal, Alberta returned to the movie theater with a white date. The two sat in the “whites only” section. When the manager demanded she and her date move to the non-white section, they stayed where they were. When the two refused to move, the manger called the police. Alberta was arrested and taken to jail to spend the night. When word of the incident reached the local Inupiat community, they rallied in support of Alberta and protested until she was released.
After she was released, she wrote an article for the local paper, The Nome Nugget, stating: “I only truthfully know that I am one of God’s children regardless of race, color or creed.” Alberta would not be stopped. She wrote a letter to the governor at the time, Ernest Gruening, and told him all about the incident. She knew she would gain his support for her cause because, just a year earlier, he had written a bill of his own that would end segregation in Alaska. Sadly, that bill had not made it through legislature. Renewed with fervor after Alberta’s stance, the governor reintroduced the bill–Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act–and it was signed into law on February 16, 1945!
Thank you, Alberta, for showing us that we CAN make a difference!