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Alaska's Black History: John S. Parks

John S. Parks
John S. Parks

Alaska Black History Notes

One of Alaska’s first Black activists was John S. Parks. He grew up in Oklahoma and California and moved to Anchorage in 1951, when Anchorage was booming with Cold War military spending. He was a skilled carpenter and an active member of Local 1281 Carpenter’s Union in the 1950s and 60s.

Historian Ian C. Hartman of Anchorage, in his book, “Black History in the Last Frontier,” wrote that Parks often petitioned his city for public services, particularly in his neighborhood of Fairview, to make sure residents had paved streets and timely snow removal.

He worked to build community-police relations and improve public safety. Anchorage historian Calvin Williams told Alaska Public Radio, that Parks was also passionate about public transportation in that city.

“And he fought for it, advocated for it -- wore the mayor, George Sullivan, down, and was allowed to get two twelve-passenger vans, which was the beginning of the People Mover. And so, John Parks is the father of public transportation and the transit center out on Tudor is named after John S. Parks.”

Today, thousands of riders rely on the People Mover to get to work and school and tourist sites.

Parks was also active in Alaska’s Democratic Party and attended state and national conventions. He ran for city council and the Alaska House of Representatives. Parks also served as an NAACP branch president in Anchorage during the 1970s, a period when the organization grew rapidly.

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.