Fighter in Velvet Gloves
Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich
"No Natives Allowed!" The sign blared at the young Tlingit girl from southeast Alaska. The sting of those words stayed with Elizabeth Peratrovich all her life. They also made her determined to work for change.
In 1945, when Elizabeth was 34 years old, she gave a powerful speech before a packed session of the Alaska Territorial Legislature. Her testimony about the evils of racism crowned years of work by Alaska Native People and their allies and led to passage of Alaska's landmark Anti-Discrimination Act, nearly two decades before President Lyndon Johnson signed the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Today, Alaskan's honor Elizabeth Peratrovich (1911-1958) every year on February 16 "for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska." (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065). Annie Boochever worked with Elizabeth’s eldest son, Roy Peratrovich Jr., to bring Elizabeth’s story to life in the first book written for young teens on this remarkable Alaska Native woman.
Annie Boochever grew up in Juneau, where she became a teacher and playwright. She is the cofounder of the Alaska Children’s Theater. Boochever is also the author of Bristol Bay Summer. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Roy Peratrovich, Jr. is a Tlingit from southeastern Alaska, where his parents were well-known Alaska Native civil rights leaders.
"It's the kind of book I wish my own children could have read when they were in grade
school, a moving story that deserves a place in every school library in this nation.
Told in straightforward, readable prose, Fighter in Velvet Gloves is the biography of an Alaska Native woman who, despite adversity, never gave up
as she struggled for equality. Both Native and Non-Native young people should be able
to identify with Elizabeth Peratrovich, who fought her battles in the far north long
before the Civil Rights movement in the American South caught fire."
—Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki author and storyteller, author of Our Stories Remember
"We Tlingit people are sensitive about our stories, yet Annie Boochever has delicately
managed this conundrum and, with Roy, has achieved a respectful and deeply honest
telling of Elizabeth's life. What I would have given to have this inspiring book in
my hands in my troubled youth."
—Diane Benson, assistant professor at the Department of Alaska Native Studies & Rural Development, University of Alaska Fairbanks
"An important contribution. . . . This is a book that should be placed in the required
curriculum of all Alaska schoolchildren. More importantly, it’s one that should be
read by adults. Anyone who peruses online comments on Alaska news sites or who follows
state news stories knows that racism is still being directed towards Alaska Natives.
The problem persists and Elizabeth Peratrovich's work remains incomplete. It’s up
to us to continue the job. Fighter in Velvet Gloves explains why."
—David James, Anchorage Daily News and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner