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Blanche McSmith was a legislator, social worker, mother, and tireless advocate for social and economic justice in Alaska. Born in Texas in 1920, Blanche Louise Preston graduated from Wiley College in 1941 and earned a masters degree in social work from the University of Southern California in 1944. She married William McSmith and they moved to Alaska in 1949. Blanche played a major role in organizing the Anchorage branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1951 and served as President in 1959, advocating for a comprehensive civil rights law. In that same year, Governor Bill Egan appointed Blanche McSmith to serve in the Alaska House of Representatives, and thus she became the first African American to serve in that body.
Blanche worked both in and outside the legislature to end housing and employment discrimination in Alaska. Her efforts culminated in the adoption of a fair housing ordinance by the Anchorage city council in 1967. She also served as the associate editor of The Alaska Spotlight, Alaska’s first newspaper for African Americans.