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Alaska's Black History: John Conna

John Conna
Courtesy of Douglas Q. Barnett
John Conna

Alaska Black History Note

John Conna arrived in Alaska in July of 1900 from Tacoma, Washington as part of the team assembled by his longtime friend the newly appointed federal judge of Alaska’s third district, Judge James Wickersham.

Conna was an advocate for the rights of women that began long before his move to Alaska, as told during a debate by the Optimist Club of Tacoma held in May of 1899.

Historian Joan Skilbred spoke about John Conna’s commitment to the rights of women during a presentation at the Alaska Miner’s Hall of Fame in Fairbanks.

"Mr. Conna thought as women had taken such a prominent part in making government in 1776 and saving it in 1861, that she should be given the same privileges as men.
As long as I possess a vote, concluded Mr. Conna, I shall give it to advance the cause of women."

Conna worked in real estate owing several properties in Fairbanks, and served the black community by doing legal jobs, he also continue to advocate for women.

"John Conna remained steadfast and true in his beliefs of the rights for women, and he was willing to risk public ridicule to make that point. 
One of the very first things accomplished by the territorial legislature was to give American women equal voting rights in Alaska.  Um, thank you John Coniff for your fearless and open support. You were way ahead of your time."

John Conna died in 1921, he was buried in the historic Clay Street Cemetery in Fairbanks, Alaska.