Did you know there have been many pivotal events in American history; the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, World War One to name just a few. The passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was one such major event.
The names of the men and women who fought, suffered and even died in the fight against racism, prejudice and bigotry will echo down the dusty halls of history for generations.
Most people know the names of black people who fought for equal rights. Names like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King are known around the world. A few people in the world even remember the names of white people who marched and fought. Names like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schermer who died fighting for other people’s rights and equality.
Can you name any civil rights fighter that was “brown”?
Now for the rest of the story.
His name was “Frank Atonio”, he and his friends were Filipinos and Samoans working for the Ward Cove Packing Company of Alaska. They sued Ward Cove Packing Company for employment discrimination claiming the company hired brown skin workers for low paying dock work and reserved the high paying office jobs for people with white skin.
They lost in the lower court but then tenaciously refused to give up. They won their appeal in the District Court. Ward Cove Packing took the fight to the Supreme Court where a split 5 to 4 decision gave them the final win. The blatant unfairness of the Supreme Court’s decision prompted Congress to pass the 1991 Civil Rights Act correcting the court and other inequities in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Filipinos championed civil rights and fought for racial equality in America.