Senate Bill 40, which establishes February as Black History Month in Alaska, was signed into law today at the Martin Luther King Jr. Living Memorial in Anchorage.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, passed the Senate unanimously in April. When Gray-Jackson was on the Anchorage Assembly, she says she would put forth a resolution every year at the local level.

"When I got elected to the state Senate I said to myself, I said, 'you know what, I have to take this a step further. No more resolutions every year. This needs to be in state statute,'" she said. "And I was so honored to be able to bring that bill forward and to have my senators pass that bill unanimously."

Before Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the bill, he stressed the importance of recognizing all cultures and their historical contributions to the community and society as a whole. 

"Because if you don't do that you have a hole in your history," he said. "A big hole."

Dunleavy continued, "We come closer to closing those gaps in our history and our understanding of each other and this is what's going to help make us a better country and a better state."

The bill was voted on in the house in May, where it passed 37 to 1. Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, was the only vote against the bill.

Black History Month has been celebrated nationwide every February since 1970. It is now recognized in Alaska with the passing of SB 40, which adds it to the list of legally recognized holidays.

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