Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Series of vignettes of historical figures

Alaska's Black History: Charlie Crenschaw

Charlie Crenchaw
Charlie Crenchaw

Charles Madison Crenchaw was the first African-American to summit Denali.

He was a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, servings as a flight engineer for airplanes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. His service was an experiment designed to demonstrate that Black pilots could serve with distinction as officers and in combat.[3]

After college he worked for the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle and became active in climbing. According to the Seattle Mountaineers, in 1963, Charles Crenchaw was invited by team leader Alvin Randall to climb Mount McKinley, now known as Denali, via the Karstens Ridge. A team of 15 reached the summit the next July. At the time it was the largest single group, with 18 climbers, and had the largest number of women, three, to reach the summit in a single party.

Crenchaw's achievement inspired journalist and outdoorsperson, James Mills, and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to assemble the first all-African American team of climbers, for a 2013 expedition up Denali on the 100th anniversary of the first summitting.

“Crenshaw made it to the summit of Denali on July  9th, 1964. Seven days earlier, Martin Luther King Jr.  oversaw the signing of the Civil Rights Amendment, quite literally personifying the dream that he defined, where he encouraged people to aspire to the mountaintop.”

Mills says the expedition is a turning point for how minority populations view their place in wild environments.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.