Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon?

Story by Pete Shaw

“When is history not history?” asks Walidah Imarisha, at a recent Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon? presentation sponsored by the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project.  Imarisha, a Portland State University and Oregon State University instructor, poses the question to our group after we have spent 90 minutes examining, wrestling with and, mostly importantly, discussing with one another the history of black people and black communities in Oregon. The question is imposing – forcing us to look to the past and present for answers, and demand an honest reckoning for the future.

There are small posters on the walls of our conference room in the Midland Branch of the Multnomah County Library, forming a timeline of history ostensibly relating to black Oregonians. On one, there is a picture of Marcus Lopes, the first person of African descent in Oregon. Another item features Alonzo Tucker, a black man who was lynched in Coos Bay. A local newspaper described the lynch mob as “quiet and orderly” and found the lynching was not an “unnecessary disturbance of the peace.”

Portland State University and Oregon State University instructor Walidah Imarisha.

Time may move along, but progress can seem frozen in its eddies. A law prohibiting black people from voting remained in the state constitution until 1927. A connection to the Confederacy with a law prohibiting interracial marriages, only repealed in 1951. An item about Legacy Emanuel’s 1970 expansion that ripped a hole in the Albina neighborhood, after the project lay stagnant for nearly two decades resulting in vacant lots and boarded up buildings. It is still being completed. A photo of Mulugeta Seraw, the Ethiopian graduate student and father beaten to death by two skinheads in 1988. Laws, events, customs–all the stuff not just of history, but also of resistance, achievement, and ultimately, survival.

In 1844, pre-state Oregon declared slavery illegal. But making slavery against the law and embracing a diverse society are two different items, and from its beginnings Oregon was modeled as a white homeland. That same 1844 law ordered all black people out of the Oregon Territory under threat of lashing. This “Lash Law” mandated black people be publicly flogged every six months; however, before it could be enforced, it was modified and the whippings were replaced with forced labor.

In 1849 another law excluded any more blacks from settling in the territory. The passing of the Oregon Donation Land Act of 1850, granted free land to Whites only. The 1859 constitution included in its Bill of Rights a racial exclusion clause banning black people from emigrating to Oregon, as well as prohibiting them from owning land and entering into contracts. Although the 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution rendered such exclusion illegal, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the ban was officially repealed from Oregon’s constitution.

This history, hardly exhaustive, is the substrate of the state of Oregon, and yet it tends to be seldom acknowledged, and, when recognized, usually depicted as an artifact of the past. This is one point where history is not history – when events are isolated, ignored, or otherwise relegated to a sphere where that is rarely discussed and where the societal effects of that history dwell without context. When you digest and discuss all those images and descriptions on the wall – as Imarisha encourages you to do with people whom you do not know – a narrative emerges. These snapshots that unto themselves seem aberrant, the work of vile individuals or groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, start running together, becoming a movie with obvious currents that formed with the state and flow into the present.

Measure 11, establishing mandatory minimum sentencing for several crimes, was passed 150 years after that first exclusion law. It applies to all defendants over 15 years old and require the accused of the listed crimes be tried as adults. Despite making up only 4 percent of Oregon’s youth population, black youth account for 19 percent of Measure 11 indictments. It seems William Faulkner was right: the past isn’t even past.

But if our state story reveals some of the horrific and disgusting acts committed, laws promulgated, and customs enforced, it also depicts acts of resistance that in themselves form a narrative. Resistance is a slippery concept, for its successes may come incrementally and some seem nothing more than drops upon a toxic pool.

The Hazlewood Building on Weidler near the Memorial Coliseum used to be home to Dude Ranch, a jazz club. It is the only remaining building of the approximately ten jazz clubs that were destroyed to make room for the Memorial Coliseum and the interstate freeway. Photo by Pete Shaw.

For example, in Bend in 1925 there was a sign that read, “We Cater To White Trade Only.” The black community in Bend, already aware of the local restaurants in which they were unwelcome, protested the sign. The city council agreed to remove it and similar Jim Crow signs, with the expectation that black people would now police themselves. Though the victory may seem Pyrrhic, it was an important step for those forced to daily encounter the signs and be reminded of the ways in which they were unwanted. It took thousands of these small largely unknown victories, won by tens of thousands of people you and I will never know, that ultimately led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Many of the institutions that shape our lives today are rooted in the Oregon constitution, and the legacy of the exclusion clause can be seen by observing where those institutions grant favor. One of the most glaring examples lies in housing and development. For the black community in Oregon, it has often been a history of taking and denial. Since homeownership is a foundation of generational wealth development, it becomes clear that Oregon’s black community is being denied an opportunity to develop wealth.

The places where black people could own property were limited through extra-legal means, such as The Portland Real Estate Code of Ethics (1919), which mandated real estate agents refuse to sell to people whose race would “be determined to lower property values in that neighborhood.” During World War II, over 13,000 black people moved to Vanport to build ships for Kaiser – a sixfold increase in the number of black people in Oregon. The Vanport flood of 1948 forced integration on Portland, as black survivors moved a couple of miles north to the Albina neighborhood, the only place the city would allow them to resettle.

The 1960 construction of Memorial Coliseum resulted in the destruction of over 400 homes and many black owned businesses, and created a physical rift in the community, particularly in Jumptown, the cultural center that ran between NE Williams and King. The construction of the interstate highways destroyed over 1100 housing units in South Albina.

A sign on NE Alberta Street tells the story of redlining in Portland’s past. Photo by Paul.

Banks refused mortgages to black people who tried to move outside “acceptable” boundaries, and often refused them within the red lines as well, because those loans were considered risky. More recently banks were willing to lend money in the form of subprime loans, often when people actually qualified for prime loans. These subprime loans largely targeted minority communities, and the current foreclosure crisis has hit communities of color hard. Black and Latino homeowners have been almost twice as likely as white people to lose their homes to foreclosure, a result, according to the ACLU in a recent lawsuit against Morgan Stanley, of the seemingly illegal and certainly unethical decision to encourage predatory mortgage loans to low-income African American borrowers.

Despite the trauma, a black community is still extant in Portland. As Imarisha noted when one black woman stated, “I don’t feel like I live here. I survive here,” sometimes survival is winning. “For a black community to exist here in Portland is incredible,” said Imarisha, “because it wasn’t supposed to exist at all.”

History is not history when some actors are denied acknowledgement of their roles at the expense of other actors who have parts that remain privileged. The importance of Why Aren’t There More Black People In Oregon? is difficult to understate. It keeps the unprivileged stories alive. Though Imarisha has made this presentation all over the state, she has only met one person who attended an Oregon public school who was aware of it. None of the ten people in our group who had attended school in Oregon had been taught this information. That is when history is not history.

The Hill Block Building was built by Charles H. Hill, Albina’s first mayor. Located at the corner of Russell and Williams it was at the center of the business district for Albina.

But history is history when people refuse to let go, when they fight for their stories to be heard, and when they spread those stories to other people who in turn pledge to keep them alive. That is real power of this presentation. It is not a lecture. It is a series of discussions, some one-on-one, some in groups of four or five, and some with the group as a whole. Real people and their stories spoken, life breathed into the material hanging from the walls.

When a woman notes how in the early 1950s the majority of restaurants in Portland would not serve black people, we see how that step taken in Bend in 1925 formed a link in a chain to today where, at the very least, such obvious segregation is unacceptable. When a man talks about how he has to pay an extra fee for his son to play in the school jazz band, it is easy enough to draw a line between the razing of four or five jazz clubs that stood in the way of the future Memorial Coliseum. Their demise meant not only fewer opportunities to experience a unique American art form, but also fewer popular culture venues where white and black people actually mixed. Though jazz has declined in popularity to the extent that students must pay extra for it, still it survives, vibrantly. That is a victory.

This is where the Hill Block Building stood. 40 years later, the Legacy Emanuel expansion has yet to be completed. Photo by Pete Shaw.

Much of the physical structure of the black community in Portland has been demolished many times over. Nature took a hand in Vanport, but it was the usual systemic oppression of the  wealthy and powerful that led to Memorial Coliseum, the construction of the interstate highways, and the expansion of Legacy Emanuel. The black community has rebuilt every time. These are all huge victories.

Dome from the Hill Block Building, located on the Northwest corner of NE Russell and Williams. The building was razed during the Legacy Emanuel expansion. It now lies in Dawson Park, across from Legacy Emanuel. Photo by Pete Shaw.

Perhaps history becomes history when it expands beyond boundaries and reaches a greater audience. The point of Why Aren’t There More Black People In Oregon? is meant not to focus solely on the black community and its history, but to explore issues of race, identity, and power in the greater community.

The struggles and victories of black people are not unique. As can be seen with Multnomah County Sheriff Staton’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Latinos are facing their own trials. The exclusion laws from the early Oregon Territory and Oregon state constitution echo loudly, as the brave people proclaiming themselves Undocumented and Unafraid speak of the terror they experienced from being identified as people who do not belong, and whose existence within the community can be severely punished. The same scenario is going on nationwide.

A history that ignores uncomfortable aspects – whitewashes them, if you will – so that what is presented is a sanitized account with no accountability, is at best insular. It does not require thought, and therefore, does not challenge. It only asks that we accept its narrative as truth. It is mythology, not history.

The posters that form a timeline ostensibly related to black Oregonians actually relate to us all. They are a part of our history, informing our present and likely our future as well. How just a future we craft largely depends on how wide and deep a sense of history we bring along on the journey forward.

“When we see these events as part of a cycle,” Imarisha said, “then we can see what is really happening and can create a place we want to live in.”

For more information about the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project go to: http://oregonhumanities.org/programs/section/conversation-project/#id1056. For more information on Walidah Imarisha’s upcoming programs see: www.walidah.com.

  79 comments for “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon?

  1. Henry MamaBear
    November 28, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    The Other Day I Was Talking To My Grandmother, A 94 Year Old retired Nurse And She Mentioned That When She Was In Nursing School at Good Sam In 1938, The Nurses We’re Allowed To Choose Whether Or Not To Care For Black Patients. I’m Proud To Say She’s The Kind Of person That DID Choose To Care For TheM, A Few Years Later Going On To Live In Africa And The Philippines. Just Another Piece Of History I Thought I Would Share.

    • lorena
      June 28, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      I was very surprised to see that you hadn’t added just how huge the membership of the KKK was in the early to mid-1920s in Oregon. The 1922 backing of their candidate in brought in a KKK governor, Walter M. Pierce, and many other officials and legislators around the state, and were the most powerful political force in Oregon then by far. You can see photos in the State and local archives from then in almost every parade in towns with parades—the KKK prominent and in full gear, including the women’s auxilliary and children in their little white hooded cloaks. The Oregon KKK who even had their own newspaper for a bit and members stopped being members mostly only due to the leadership and in-fighting…not that they had changed their minds. This is a good article to start off with if you would like to know more about this: http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/ku_klux_klan/

      • lorena
        June 28, 2013 at 9:22 AM

        Plus, this is a pretty good timeline (wished it had been written in a better font) of US and Oregon history of race, immigration and education. http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/412697

        • Peter Shaw
          June 30, 2013 at 4:23 PM

          Thank you Lorena. I will pass on the timeline to Walidah Imarisha.

          • Kip Carlson
            July 3, 2013 at 9:23 PM

            While I’m sure the Ku Klux Klan was no friend of African-Americans in Oregon in the 1920s, I believe the main target of their efforts was Catholics, and particularly Catholic schools.

            Thank you for an excellent story that provides valuable background to understand issues we may have trouble facing even today, but must face.

          • Meg
            August 27, 2015 at 11:21 AM

            That is only because they had already driven out African-Americans and needed a more available target to remain relevant.

      • Bob
        April 17, 2015 at 5:09 PM

        Yes indeed the Democrats and the KKK were arm in arm back in the day, repressing Blacks, Catholics, Jewish, and perhaps Native Americans ….. nothing has changed, the democrats are still the party of HATE

        • Pete Shaw
          April 19, 2015 at 11:01 AM

          I have never been sure of the point of this line of reasoning. It is facile, relying on labels instead of analysis.

          The Democrats you mention held power “back in the day” in the southeastern states–the states that largely formed the Confederacy and lost the Civil War–because the Republican Party was so hated. That Republican Party–the party of Abraham Lincoln–brought Reconstruction to the war-losing states and brought about Constitutional Amendments 13, 14, and 15, which at least nominally abolished slavery and secured greater rights for Africans in the United States.

          At the time, the Democrats represented the alternative to those potentially greater rights for those formerly enslaved people. The values of those Democrats were much more in line with today’s Republican Party. Their racism was as overt as Republicans today who so easily disparage Black people, Brown people, Muslims, and other people lacking white skin and who–related to the context of some of Walidah Imarisha’s work–find nothing wrong with police, security people, and vigilantes murdering one Black person every 28 hours.

          If transplanted, many of today’s Republicans would be yesteryear’s Democrats. Remember, Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town associated with the 1964 murder of 3 civil rights workers. There, Reagan extolled states’ rights, the dog whistle race-baiting term that reached out to racist whites, telling them that Reagan–the exalted godfather of today’s Republican Party–stood with them. Those Democrats you mention, turned to stand with Reagan and the Republican Party.

          This does not let today’s Democrats of the hook. They are a party that currently deals more in soft-pedal racism. President Clinton’s so-called welfare reform comes to mind, and the prison-industrial complex that once again criminalizes being Black–the new Jim Crow as Michelle Alexander refers to it–was a bi-partisan effort, as have been so many other laws and court decisions that reinforce the racism that is a foundation of the US. I cannot think of any Democrats who have come out and condemned police for hunting down Black people. And obviously, President Obama has no problem using drones to blow up perceived terrorists–the bi-partisan term for people with brown skin whom it is assumed practice Islam.

          Stating one party is a party of hate does nothing to solve the problem. It only allows those problems to persist because that simplistic rationale ignores systemic problems that do not change when you vote for Democrats or Republicans.

          • Edwin
            November 12, 2015 at 4:01 AM

            That was a well stated response that will fall on deaf ears im afraid. when people disregard the whole southern strategy and ignores the current racist tendencies of the current GOP they are obviously not in tune with whats happening in reality

          • Jimmy Lyons
            November 16, 2016 at 5:01 PM

            Democrats never really ran the south, Dixiecrats did. When Reagan came in they switched to the racist Republican Party. I graduated from the U of O in 81. I am from Mobile. There is much more racial interaction in the south, especially the under 30 crowd. I came back. The faux tolerance of Eugene was nauseating. It is nice to only visit it now. I am Irish blood, but I am very interactive in the black culture with jazz music and my Catholic Parish. The lily white life is not for me.

          • Drew Palmer
            June 18, 2017 at 2:25 AM

            An awesomely balanced comment, but I think it’s important to note that the shift between Republican and Democrat party values is very traceable, between Eisenhower’s policy of “Equal Treament and Opportunity” and the Kennedy/Johnson shift to Affirmative Action and the War on Poverty. Johnson’s most famous failure is in pursuing the Vietnam War, but probably his most damaging was the Civil Rights Act, which basically enshrined the idea in federal law that blacks are inherently inferior, and need protection.

        • william stout
          September 12, 2015 at 8:13 PM

          what bull. the GOP has become the new hate group. In what way could you possibly say that the democrats are the party of hate? ridiculous

        • Eddie
          December 10, 2015 at 11:44 PM

          Lie Republicans are the new racists. Just listen to them.

        • Jarrod Daniels
          January 9, 2016 at 4:19 PM


          After the Jim Crow laws were abolished a cross the country and Blacks were finally free to vote. Most of the rascist trash that poluted this country with their sick rascist idealogy jumped ship and joined the Republican party. Yet, I would argue that both and all parties have members with rascist views. (Thus I chose to be an independent voter) The Republican parties has shown that it clings closer to hate then all others by far.

          • mike
            July 7, 2016 at 11:58 AM

            Thank you Bob for your answer, that is the most factual answer on the history of why republican are the most hated party today. what the point of arguing a point, if you do not use facts. thanks again!

        • john k
          January 17, 2016 at 6:11 AM

          What an absolutely idiotic comment. And I’m quite certain you hate Obama.

  2. Kendall
    November 28, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Thanks, Pete. Good work putting this important story together. I posted it to Facebook with thanks to you and Walidah Imarisha.

  3. Däv
    November 29, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    I’m reminded of the first 7 or so pages of this article: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bzgjzmswuf9ZSnBsU25EZGo4b28

  4. john shaw
    November 30, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    I’ve been around a long time in brooklyn, ny and now nj. Again, I am so proud of Peter Shaw, and his wife Jessica Ly who supports his endeavors. I enjoyed his article and his obvious devotion “to the cause”.

  5. Marie
    December 3, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    As black woman and immigrant I was assigned to the hospital of low class somewhere in the northeast Portland. I feel very uncomfortable being subject of discrimination because I am black on nowadays. When I was looking for house I was always detected to the the district where black community live. Anyways, I still have the choice to choose who I want to be in society.

    • Jeanette Bishop
      July 16, 2016 at 8:34 PM

      An Oregonian, I have found it difficult to get information about racism in this state. I was a real estate agent in Eugene from 1988 to 2012, and remember seeing many old documents, deeds I think, which had been signed by buyers, agreeing that they would not sell to a black person nor allow a black to live in the house, except servants. I was appalled to read those. But don’t remember seeing dates on them. Does anybody know if that was a Eugene ordinance, or just in certain communities? I do remember that I saw many of these, from many parts of Eugene, and they were consistent in wording. It doesn’t appear to me that it would have been just an agreement between the buyer and seller. Does anybody know the dates that that was imposed and the areas it covered? Or where would one find the answer?

  6. June 27, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Williams Avenue was NEVER called Jumptown. Bob Dietsche titled his book about the Williams Avenue nexus of jazz clubs Jumptown, and people who read his book – and who never lived in the neighborhood – transferred the name of the book to the district. The area was known as Williams Avenue, not Jumptown.

    • Peter Shaw
      June 30, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      Thank you for your comment, Anne, and you are correct, at least as far as Jumptown goes. I assume you are also correct about it being known as Williams Avenue: in a quick search, all I could find was that the area certainly was not called Jumptown. Regardless, I would assume the Jumptown idea (as I understand it, some folks in the city want to name the area around the Rose Garden Jumptown, and turn it into some shopping/entertainment zone) is another step to erase the history of the area, to cover up the past and ignore injustice.

      I should also add that the mistake was solely mine, not Walidah Imarisha’s.

      Again, thank you.

      Peter Shaw

      • February 23, 2017 at 12:45 PM

        The Albina Jazz Festival was formed as a non-profit public benefit in 2016. We plan to hold a festival this August 2017 in tribute to what happened to Albina neighborhood residents and to the historic Jazz clubs that were torn down for Memorial Colisem and the Interstate Freeway. Please lend your support. We are asking for donations to help make this festival happen. Go to Albinajazzfestival.com, or Facebook.com/albina jazz festival. Thank you for the article. Please share this with Walidah Imarisha. Thanks, Stephen Hanks

    • February 23, 2017 at 12:52 PM

      Thank you Anne. My mother lived in Albina when she moved there from St. Louis in 1945. My dad was stationed in Astoria, Oregon in the navy and remembers driving to the Williams Avenue Jazz clubs on the weekends during the 1950’s. I am trying to hold the Albina Jazz festival over by the old Elliot School (now Tubman) this summer in honor of the old Albina neighborhood and the jazz clubs that were destroyed. Please pass the word. For more info, go to our website, albinajazzfestival.com, or Facebook.com/albina jazz festival. Thank you for your comment.
      Stephen Hanks

  7. Joe
    June 28, 2013 at 10:16 AM


    Thanks for the article.
    In this sentence:
    “The importance of Why Aren’t There More Black People In Oregon? is difficult to understate.”
    did you mean “overstate”?


    • Peter Shaw
      June 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      Hi Joe,

      I will relay your concerns to both my secretary and the editorial staff at the Occupier. For too long have they considered themselves deities, consumers of air rarer than you and I will ever know.

      Well, I have no secretary, and the editorial staff is top notch. Of course, “overstate” is correct.

      To err is human, but to proofread is numinous.


      Peter Shaw

      • May 1, 2015 at 4:44 AM

        “to err is human, but to proofread is numinous.” I want to say that to my Com Sci proffesor here at OSU, but i am sure she wont like it. (Now please err and proofread my comment)

  8. Anthro
    June 30, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    First off, this read as something uniquely Portland and less about Oregon as a whole. Additionally, I don’t think it was ever called Jumptown.

    • Peter Shaw
      July 2, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      Hello Anthro,

      Walidah Imarisha’s presentation is about Oregon. I focused more on the Portland aspects of the presentation both because I live in Portland and because I assume most of the readership of what we publish is in and near Portland. These are not the best reasons, but they are nonetheless how I approached writing about Walidah’s presentation.

      You are correct about Jumptown. Please see Anne Richardson’s comment above for more detail.

      Thank you for your comment,

      Peter Shaw

  9. Blue Makeda
    July 11, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    I have owned and operated a business in many major cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Miami, and after 60 years on the planet, decided to recently relocate to Portland. Now, I often wonder if that was a big mistake. You see, since I’ve been here for the past 6 months, I’ve been accused of being a drug dealer and money launderer; banned from a dental clinic “for life” because I questioned why they raised their prices after discussing an agreed amount; accused of being a thief; ignored at business meetings; denied housing and service at a restaurant; pulled from the Maxline to check my ticket; and, had my credit card number hacked! I never imagined that, in 2013, the people in Portland would not be as beautiful as the area is know for.

    So no, Portland is not as diverse towards Black people as they would like to believe or have others believe. It is a Red State with a semi-blue City! Thanks for the article. It makes understanding Portland people and politics a whole lot better.

    • JR Allen
      September 3, 2014 at 2:46 AM

      Blue Makeda,

      Reading your story sadden me…its shameful. However, I believe your moving to Portland after having run other businesses in other State’s uniquely qualifies you to assess and compare the differences in treatment. I am thankful you shared your unfortunate experiences, as I believe you are exactly what Portland needs to acknowledge, embrace and understand is real….that black.owned businesses do and will continue to exist, strive, thrive and prosper regardless of institutionalized racism. You have a unique opportunity to be part of.history and move it forward in the right direction. I hope the many unfortunate encounters and experiences don’t deter you or your continued business success. I also hope that the community of Portland and surrounding communities recognize, understand and support your business and the significance of your contributions to this important history.

    • David
      January 3, 2015 at 12:34 PM

      Ms Makeda,

      I am sorry for your troubles in Portland. I hate to report that we have to be aware that racism is still here and will effect our businesses and way of life. I am a white guy that grew up in Savannah, Ga. Here, I’ve racially assaulted, robbed, SHOT AT for no reason (maybe just in cross fire), and was harassed at a gas station with a bunch of black people, and pulled over by the police for suspicion of buying drugs (when i was actually lost during my first time downtown). Because of my bad experiences with racism, I have decided to move to a predominately white state such as Oregon. I do not want to expose my children to the same way of life that I endured. Additionally, I would not open a business in any of these places where these acts occurred. I know your situation is a bit different and by no means do I attempt to draw a direct comparison. My point is merely to say that, this is a perpetual cycle that needs at least another 100 years to decompress.

      • Kim
        July 8, 2016 at 11:11 PM

        David, while I am sure people have appreciated your contribution to the comment section, I would like to inform you that what you have described is not racism.

      • Nichole
        March 3, 2018 at 12:51 PM

        At the end of the day David, your white privilege will always get you a check!!

      • Green EARTH
        June 10, 2018 at 9:20 AM

        To everyone on this thread, yes racism is very real for someone of color. And for someone married to a person of color. Especially when you both are a minority group in the US. My husband, a Jamaican born wonderful man, and me – a Bulgarian born American citizen, are constantly looked at up and down. We live in Georgia. It’s a beautiful state with wonderful nature, but we’ve been looking to get out because of the hate groups, racism and ultimately – lack of humanity. I’m sick of talking about politics, governments, what skin color we are and where we come from.
        We are all people in search of a peaceful home. Somewhere to raise a family and be happy in your everyday community life. We kept looking for wonderful places to move it and came upon Oregon. Now, I am so saddened to say that HELL NO! I don’t want to raise my future family in a place where people are still talking of color, race, religion, and constantly separating and degrading themselves with hate groups that for some reason are legal. Isn’t it illegal to hold certain groups of people back because of color, sex, race or whatever? What happened to america the land of dreams and opportunities… the land of new tomorrows?
        How dare we all, as people, stil be so separated and so angry and so bitter and stil hating one another… how dare we taint this earth with our hate?!
        I’m sick of looking for a place to raisemy family because I see now, there is none. This whole country is stil racist. And even though I’ve been a tax paying American citizen for over 17 years, I stil get asked – are you legal here?! How freaking sickening is this.
        Is this not supposed to be the melting pot of the world? Is this not supposed to be the place that everyone comes together and celebrates each other’s differences instead of hating each other for it?!
        I’m so discouraged by this country.

        Thank you for writing this article and to all who commented. You really opened my eyes to the truth – racism is alive and well in all of the United States of freaking America.

    • January 22, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      I am so glad I read your response. I am breaking from the South because the racism is driving me insane. I was looking at Klammath Falls, until I saw that the count of P.O.C. are minuscule. Mainly Caucasoid; I lived in poverty most of my life and feel more comfortable living with a diversity of People. Colorful. Sad. The very best to you Blue Makeda

      • Judith Trotter-McAfee
        June 28, 2015 at 11:05 PM

        Do not move to Klamath Falls is my advice.

    • Margaret
      June 18, 2015 at 9:45 AM

      Please make sure to report your dental clinic experience to:

    • Andrea Edwards
      September 8, 2015 at 7:26 AM

      I is very refreshing to see that a black woman has owned and operated business in so many different cities. I am a native of Portland and have been here my entire life. 51 years. This is a very racist state. I have seen so many things happen to black people who simply wanted to get grants or loans to start a business. They were denied. This was in North and N.E. Portland at a time when only black people occupied that part of town and then white’s came and took over the area and the construction started. My mother who is 68 years old was married to a man in the military. They had good credit and he had a G.I Loan to buy a home. So the money was there and they were approved for a $350,000 to $400,000 loan, but the banks would not approve or carry the contract. Not exactly sure what happened, but they could not get the beautiful home that they wanted and were approved by the VA to get. So I know exactly what you mean and good luck on doing business in this state.

    • john k
      January 17, 2016 at 6:13 AM

      Thanks for your post. It is excellent.

    • June 16, 2016 at 12:00 AM

      Oh dear,you’ve been through so much to stomach.Shame to all portlanders,haters of humanity.

    • Tomica
      December 10, 2016 at 6:51 AM

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve been considering moving to Portland, Oregon and starting my business. I will definitely have to do more research. Thank you.

    • Mike
      March 13, 2017 at 7:58 PM

      Do you think it’s possible that it has nothing to do with racism? And that maybe your abrasive? If you and I disagree about something, does that make me a racist? Your story makes it sound like there’s a problem where ever you go……….can you not state that maybe you could be a little at fault on at least one of them?

      • Nichole
        March 3, 2018 at 12:59 PM

        Mike… have you been living under a rock for the last century or as long as you been in existence? Everyone of color in this country has been reassured many of times that racism is what they have to consider prior to leaving their house everyday and god forbid your a brown man driving a luxury car, the chances of being pulled over by a cop is 100%…. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  10. LJG
    November 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    I enjoyed reading this article. Not only does it expose false complacency regarding Portland’s treatment of minorities- but it highlights groups and individuals fighting in the community to defend these groups.

    It is very much true that many white liberals see Portland as a kind of leftist Utopia. Particularly so if the city’s perceived values align with their own. However, the truth is perhaps best seen in Portland’s treatment of Occupy. On the one hand, there was support for the movement from various sectors of the community and activists of different stripes. And Sam Adams showed more restraint than say the Mayor of Oakland. But, when push came to shove, the movement in Portland and across the country was crushed- with city governments working hand in hand with Homeland Security. In the end, business and government interests trumped freedom and the first amendment.

  11. Tiffany
    December 30, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    Hi, I need to do a presentation in February 2014 for Black History and Civil Rights in Oregon as an opportunity to educate co-workers. Can you send me some links for information on this topic. I am happy that co-workers are open and desiring to discuss this topic.

  12. Ian Devereaux
    January 17, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Now I have a better understanding of the hell I’ve endured here in Medford. I reside by the Rogue Valley Country Club my partner and I. I am a man of color and he is white. I drove a Mercedes and have been classified as a drug dealer and my life made a complete hell. I must admit that not all the people here in Medford share that same ideology. Racism still exist in this day and age. Do they hate me or themselves?

  13. February 16, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    Racism book about Oregon: Police brutality, on the job discrimination, housing discrimination, traumatized by the KKK, attempted lynching’s by the Gypsy Jokers and the skinheads. Falsely inprisoned, mistaken identity, which led to two self defense, not guilty court decisions, due to Racism in the state of Oregon. My Memoirs:Justified License to [email protected] Barnes& Noble

    • Doctress
      July 10, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      Are you talking about “America” in the 21st Century? I thought i was reading about the Jim Crow Era of the 1900’s. Are you sure you got YourSTory date right?

      Well, Oregon is not the only state with blatant racism and hostile savagery written all over the laws with smudging pages of history from the stint of brutality and massacre oozing out of the crevices. They established these laws and then break them with their actions.

      When black america unitize to rebel against this type of savagery, then they will back up and think twice. Until Two or three gather-to-gather in strength, then peace will abide. The only way to win is learn the laws, the loop holes, and back holes and the underground movements to assist.

  14. Will Rider
    March 17, 2014 at 5:49 AM

    Hi IM thinking about moving to Roseburg, Oregon from Dallas Texas , As a black man is ir a good ideal ?

    • Jazzed
      April 23, 2015 at 10:45 PM

      Roseburg is probably not your best bet. You’d be better up in Eugene or closer to Portland. It’s more progressive there, and not to say there aren’t racists, they seem to either be fewer and farther between, or have less of a presence than in those southern and eastern parts of the state. But I do remember probably 10 years ago on the news that the KKK sponsored an adopt-a-highway out near Salem.

    • September 8, 2015 at 6:29 PM

      I don’t recommend you move to Eugene. The racism here against Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans is more micro-aggressive rather than overtly violent, but it is pernicious. Having to confront it daily without the consolations of a more sophisticated culture (good films, restaurants, theaters, music, etc) will just wear you down. Portland would be a much better bet for you.

    • Christopher Vincent
      September 13, 2015 at 9:10 PM

      I lived in Roseburg don’t move here it’s no place for a black man. I’ve live in Medford, Eugene and Portland as well. If your going to be in the Northwest,Seattle or a suburb outside the city is your best chance to have a life. Seattle has its problems as well. Stay out of southern Washington, as well as eastern Washington. I decided to go to college out here it was a huge mistake.

  15. Elizabeth
    August 10, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    I really appreciate this article. I grew up in lower NE Portland, but have lived in NYC for 20 years. When I’ve returned to visit family the last few years, I have been struck dumb by the transformation of Irvington, Alberta, Albina and the bulk of N. Portland. It is shocking how thoroughly and rapidly the wholesale takeover by white people has been in these communities. All the businesses I remember – from shoe stores, to candy shops, to wig stores are all gone; replaced by expensive boutiques and hipster hangouts. But even more shocking is the near complete absence of black homeowners. I asked the barista in a hip cafe on NE 15th “Where are all the black people who lived in this neighborhood?”. She replied, “I guess they didn’t take care of their houses and were forced to leave”. Both the reality of the massive change in demographics, and the horrific ignorance of the newly installed white community are deeply disturbing to me. Articles like yours and work by Ms. Imarisha cannot correct the wrongs, but are critically important in correcting the narrative about what is happening. That is an important start.

  16. Elaine
    November 30, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    I visited a childhood friend in spring, and I met her spouse and several of her friends on the west coast (including some for Oregon). Perhaps it was the circles of people I was visiting, but I was a little stunned at the racist attitudes… and they didn’t even realize they were racist. Their attitudes were assumed “to just be the truth”, and the idea of examining it wasn’t even an option.

    The friend I was visiting wasn’t even American (for more than half her life), but has forgotten about that too. There was a lot of willful ignorance going on. Their religious lives and other aspects of their personal lives were handled the same way. Religion out there (in their circles anyway), was a whole other ball of wax to what I see out here.

    To grow up there among poisoned attitudes and then be like that is one thing, but it’s even scarier when someone who wasn’t exposed to it for more than half their life gets taken in.

    That’s been the second time in my life where I’ve cut someone out of my life completely.

  17. Lisa Lisa
    December 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    OREGON IS THE MOST RACIST PLACE I HAVE EVER BEEN. The Coos Bay and North Bend area are really bad. They oppress the ethnic children (especially Blacks and Hispanics) through the educational system and athletic sports, and the adults of this ethnic group are oppressed through employment (if they have or can keep their jobs) and through racial police profiling (mostly through a string of traffic violations). They’re giving tickets to the ethnic groups for traffic violations that never actually occured. If the person wrongfully ticketed exercises his or her rights in court to a fair trial, the judge always sides with the officer’s no matter what evidence is brought forth. People shun these families and will not associate with them at all. There’s a silent segregation/racial oppression, police brutality of organized racial hate crimes being applied to the people of any color other than white that’s going on here on a daily basis! The ignorance is at an almost all time high and hard to bear! In late 2014 this is a sad, sad reality, and a negative reform for white Oregonian’s of the Coos Bay and North Bend areas. GIVES THE WHITE PEOPLE OF OREGON A BAD NAME AND MAKES THEM LOOK IGNORANT BEYOND BELIEF, AND THEY LIKE THAT? I have to laugh in digest at their putrid spirits and lack of intelligence still remains in the 20th century! When are they going to wake up?(Shaking my head)…

  18. onima
    January 21, 2015 at 9:33 PM

    My daughter had to read this article for school- she attends high-school in St Johns– I read it also since I am always very interested in any readings about racial issues and social issues. It helped me understand more about Portland because honestly, I have been confused as to how it was so racist and culturally ignorant when I knew slavery was not legal in Oregon so long ago. I thought it was so awesome that when others in this country were fighting about the politics and ethics on the subject (and obvious genocide) that Oregon was against it! Well, lo and behold- it was a different abusive situation. So, even though I wasn’t surprised in any way- it shown some light on the issue. Thank you and I hope to read more from you and anyone else spreading the la verdad

    • Jordan
      August 27, 2015 at 8:21 AM

      A good place to start would be the history of the Free Soil movement, which emerged in the antebellum period. While generally anti-slavery, it was also frequently anti-black because the members were more interested in not having to compete with black labor, whether slave or free, than they were about the rights of black people. One consequence was that a number of states in the north passed exclusion laws while also banning slavery.


  19. Melody
    June 4, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    Lash Laws? Wow. This is absolutley one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read.

  20. Julez
    July 16, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    The bigger question should be “Who the hell WANTS to live in Oregon?”.

  21. sean aaron cruz
    January 3, 2016 at 9:22 PM

    Oregon’s racist founding began long before statehood, as the white settlers poured in, stealing all of the best land, killing some 95% of the Native population and force-marching the few survivors to distant reservations. Hundreds of villages were razed and their cemeteries desecrated and robbed. There was an open market in body parts fueled by state-sponsored bounties in California.

    The 1850 Oregon Donation Land Act was the largest free land giveaway in the history of the nation, and millions of acres of those lands were stolen for the exclusive ownership of white settlers before any treaties were signed. That’s where this story really begins….

  22. robbie
    January 30, 2016 at 5:32 PM

    I thought I was reading a current article, it should have been titled the “The History of Racist Laws and Actions in Oregon”. I found it interesting that the author had to go back at times 165 years to give examples of racism. Is it not good news that the author had to go so far back in history to give examples of Oregon’s racist past? I question whether the examples of infrastructure in primarily black neighborhoods are signs of racism. If money was not invested in black areas would that not have also been pointed to as racism? I grew up in SW Portland in the 1970’s and 80’s and it saddened me deeply to read the article and the comments that follow. While I am white, I can honestly say, to the best of my knowledge I have never been aware of racism in Portland. I am not diminishing anyone else’s experience, only expressing my own. As far back as preschool I attended school, lived in neighborhoods and befriended all races including black. As I got older I attended college at OSU, then worked with and continued friendships with all races. To my knowledge my children and their peers don’t even consider race in choosing friends….its whats is on the inside! I, obviously incorrectly, thought racism is something the West Coast had left in the distant past. I have always been so pleased as I have moved around the West….Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona and Hawaii that I have never to my knowledge been witness to racism (yes coming from a white woman I obviously have a sheltered perspective). I have so many friends in mixed race relationships who are leaders in their communities that again I am beyond saddened to read others experiences. My greatest hope for our country, a wonderful melting pot, that we all lay the race issue down. We should not stop teaching the history but no one should be paying the price of laws that were enacted 165 years ago!

    • Olivia
      March 3, 2018 at 1:35 PM

      You don’t have to go back 165 years to know that racism exist! Black people in the south were still being hung less then 100 years ago, along with segregated schools! Future black home owners were still being rejected home loans! You have to do better with looking up research on American history, which Is what African Americans are a huge part of! We’re out in high crime areas and kill each other because the society we live in built a system to have blacks destroy themselves, that way their hands don’t look dirty( social media, marketing strategies, keeping up with the joneses, no resources for mental health issues etc! When you’re you, your not going to face the same struggles black people do because it’s not your struggle! 😉

    • Green EARTH
      June 10, 2018 at 9:31 AM

      Coming from a privileged white chick who never had to struggle by being called neger by white supremacist just yesterday.
      Yeah. Welcome to the United States, the melting pot of ignorance.

  23. Jenny
    February 8, 2016 at 9:27 AM

    Should be read again and again until absorbed by the community.

  24. Xavier
    April 10, 2016 at 6:24 AM

    How could anyone expect there not to be psychological bounds of slavery existing today. Racist that live in that profligate, hate filled, rat trap should be ashamed of themselves. Feigning newfangled quirkiness, while tacitly creating a cesspool of racism and white elitism. It is disgusting! However, it is the same around the world and very few know of Portland’s unique style of evil.
    Time to expose you morons!!!!!

  25. David West
    April 28, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    I’m an Africian American and a 100% Disabled Vietnam Vet (PTSD among other things), however, physically I’m just fine. I’m a member of L.A. Fitenss and 24 hour fitness. Working out is my job both day and night shifts. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles and I have two children one in college and the other entering next year. After that, I’m on my way. I’m looking forward to living there in Oregon, the 420 laws combined with CCW situation will make Oregon my paradise on this earth.

    Over the years I’ve learned in Japan teaching English for 8 years (the Japanese are racist too), five years in Hawaii (racist cops), 2 years Chicago where it’s not the police and white people who were the problem but my own brothers there. I really hope they get it together soon. Alabama I visit regularly as my father still lives there. What I learned from living in these various places is that racist are everywhere and they as well as other people who hate are like dogs. Run from one you get chased. Stand your ground and let them know that fear neither pain nor death they’ll back up and cower with their proverberal tails between their legs. And as far as religion goes I’m Gnostic. However, I do agree with one phrase from your bible which was concived and written by earthly men. “Do on to other as they do on to you”. My translation, “Don’t start no shit and their won’t be none”.

    • Ken
      June 12, 2016 at 8:16 AM

      Very interesting and true comments. Especially that last sentence. Pleas let me know how Oregon is. I’m really looking forward to making a weekend trip down.

  26. Debbie
    July 19, 2016 at 3:11 PM

    I am a black woman, health care professional, living in Klamath Falls, Oregon. I came to Klamath Falls, as a locum tenue in the laboratory at Sky Lakes Medical Center while their permanent staff was out on medical leave. I was originally born in Tennessee in 1961, so I know something about racism, but nothing like what I have experienced in Oregon.

    I worked as a locum tenen for the hospital for seven (7) months. They extended my contract twice. Subsequently, they fired their staff returning from medical leave, hired me permanently, bought out my contract from the staffing agency, and even paid to relocate me from Idaho to Klamath Falls.

    Things seemed to be going well. I was hired as a Cytology Coordinator. I had a small private office with an attached bathroom. With time, I had discussions with my medical director about me being too visible. I was offered an office off a service exit, out of sight, with no bathroom, so the part time pathologist could occupy my more visible office. That was just the beginning of the psychological attacks that were employed to move me out of Oregon. Just seven (7) months after hiring me permanently and buying out my contract, they laid me off.

    You would not believe if I related all the underhanded things that have occurred since my lay off. Often, it is suggested that I leave Oregon in the way of a question, “Why are you still here?”.

    It has been three (3) years since I initially came to Oregon. Since my lay off in 2014, I have worked maybe five (5) months in my profession – 21 days in Medford, 4 months in Portland, and recently just 2 weeks in Washington where the pathologist knew what he referred to as “the good old boys” in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

    Within the last month, I was called about returning to the job in Medford to help for 3 months. I told the recruiter about my discharge and that I was discharged because of what I call “politics”. He asked me if I had been discharged because of politics or because of my competency. Again, I stated politics, and added “I do not hold grudges. If they want me back, I want them. But, if they do not want me, I do not want them”. He said he would investigate and get back with me. The next day, I received an email from him stating that he had good news. He stated that they were happy to have me back, and was actually looking at me a a candidate. Two (2) business days later, I called him about the results of my application. He then said that a single manager who was on staff when I was employed 21 days decided not to have me back. I guess it is difficult to look someone in the face for 3 months when you have a quilty conscience. However, I felt vindicated in all this because it demonstrates that my abilities and professionalism was not the blame, as they have tried to imply.

    My means of transportation is a issue in Oregon for many. It is a surprise that I have a Subaru Outback SW. When I initially tried to buy a Subaru from the Subaru dealership in Klamath Falls, I was told by the salesman that I did not deserve a Subaru. In April 2014, when I was again attempting to buy a car, and I isolated a used 2012 Outback SW on their lot, I was asked by the salesman if I had to have a SUV. When I said yes, he said that my credit was soo bad that I would not be able to finance that car, and I would have to pay an astronomical amount I down payment. Well, I did not. I was approved, and I am still currently driving the car. That particular salesman did not come back to bring me the good news that night. He later apologized for his remarks.

    When I shared my good news about the purchase of my vehicle at work. There was a similar reaction of shock. Two months later, I was laid off.

    There is a racist infrastructure all across Oregon. That is why there are so few blacks in Oregon.

    I once witness this black man crossing the street on the light. A driver in a car wanting to make a turn was impatient, and yelled a racial remark at the man. Confrontation arose.

  27. September 9, 2016 at 7:59 AM

    I feel the KKK and Freemassons are a link to today’s issues… I’m Native but I will like to say that Tiffany Jenks Murder and the New World Order thus far seem to have links to the CULT… KKK…. It’s not like they just woke up and said… You know what… Blacks are not that bad……

    I feel the KKK is now the illuminati and the plan is worse then ever…..

    I wish I had a list of names of who was in the KKK or free Massons and see how they line up to some of the Police, the Judges and DA who 100% lied in the murder of Tiffany Jenks on Oct 8th 2013 at Blue Lake Park… I bet it’s right in line with them….

  28. lynn
    October 3, 2016 at 4:29 PM

    I have lived in Oregon for a long time. When I first arrived I saw all the interracial couples and thought I had found Americas melting pot. Soon discovered it was just a bunch of black men with white women. I soon began to realize from being told by several of them that they have to “put the white woman out front in order to get cars housing ect.” I laughed it off. But after working here and living here I realized it was a fact. Oregon wants to be seen as a very liberal and non bias state Portland in particular. But has a very racist underbelly. I am heading back south where the folks are for real. I don’t even want to be buried here.

  29. Paula B.
    March 10, 2017 at 8:29 PM

    Pete, this is your old friend Paula from Cornell. Great article. Would love to hear from you again. Look me up in the Cornell alumni directory and shoot me an email if you get this. It’s been too long.

  30. matilda
    December 30, 2019 at 6:25 PM

    it definitely has to be super white for a reason. I mean why else wouldn’t it be a little more diverse by now? Everyone else is allergic? They uncontrollably sneeze and get weezy, so they don’t settle down there? I think not. What a major problem.

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