Alaska Statehood is the birth story of modern Alaska - the struggle to free Alaska from colonialism and win self-government. It started with the Gold Rush and ended in victory sixty years later. It's an inspirational tale of volunteerism, love of place, and overcoming partisanship. To win statehood, Alaskans had to take on powerful, national interests than ran the Alaska Territory like a fiefdom, hauling away its vast riches of gold, copper and salmon, leaving little for the well-being of Alaskans. In 1939, President Franklyn D. Roosevelt appointed a New Yorker, Ernest Gruening, Territorial Governor. Gruening made it his cause to win a better deal for Alaskans, which he felt could only come with statehood. The non-resident interests fought his every reform effort through their lobbyists, their businesses, and the Alaskan newspapers they controlled. Alaska statehood became entwined with the Civil Rights controversy in Congress during the 1950s. Southern segregationists feared that Alaska, with its Alaska Native population, would vote to break their civil rights filibusters. Powerful southern committee chairmen kept statehood bills "bottled up" in committee. So, Alaskans went over the heads of Congress to tell their story directly to the American people. Alaska Statehood also shows how statehood set in motion forces that shaped modern Alaska in ways unimaginable when it joined the Union in 1959: things like Alaska Natives' land claims settlement and Alaskans' control of their oil wealth unlike that of any other state. Indeed, Prudhoe Bay's vast oil deposits might not have been discovered if not for statehood.
Length: 56 minutes