- Type of Place
- Metro Area
- Politics c. 1860?
- Unions, Organized Labor?
Sundown Town Status
- Sundown Town in the Past?
- Was there an ordinance?
- Year of Greatest Interest
- Still Sundown?
Method of Exclusion
Main Ethnic Group(s)
In 1970, among the 18 small cities between 10,000 and 50,000, 15 were overwhelmingly white and had been still whiter; several were confirmed.
Peak KKK membership in 1920s: 150,000 (Arwin Smallwood, The Atlas of African-American History and Politics (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1998), 106)
“No free Negro, or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide penal laws for the removal, by public officers, of all such Negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion
from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the State, or employ, or harbor them.”
Repealed 2002: about 30 percent of voters voted to retain the measure.
Below is the text of a speech given by Anitra K. Rasmussen, 11th District, Oregon State Legislature.
Location: Metropolitan Richmond Day, November
18, 1999, Richmond VA (from Hope in the City website, 2/2001)
“…Perhaps for most of you, when you hear of my birthplace you think of forests and salmon, progressive environmental and social legislation, but there is a deep shadow in our paradise. We who are of European American heritage, have been pretty successful in keeping people of color – especially African Americans – out of our state.
“We started this project in 1849 when the white male settlers who made up the Oregon Territorial Legislature specifically prohibited “negros, mulattos, and colored persons” from our state. Now, as a white woman, I would love to be able to say that it’s all the white men’s fault. The truth is, I don’t believe that the white women of the community were standing outside the door of the room with pickets in their hand protesting the action.
“… As near as I can tell from reading the 1849 resolution, this exclusion came from a place of fear one of the worst motivators in our human emotional range. The resolution essentially reads, “We’re surrounded by Indians. We let in African Americans, they’re going to cause trouble, stir up the native Americans, and then we’ll all be dead.
“I find this statement fascinating because buried within this law is an acknowledgment that the Chinook people, the Klamath People, the Nez Pierce and all their brothers and sisters throughout the Americas might have a reason to be unhappy with the loss of their land and their way of life.
“When Oregon finally came into the Union, we made a decision to be a free state rather than a slave state not so much out of a concern for the suffering of our brothers and sisters in bondage but more from a sense of just ‘don’t let these kinds of people here.’ No black folks, no problems. Our state constitution very specifically limited the participation and presence of African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans. Political and economic power was clearly to remain in European American control.
“… Last spring Senator Gordly and I were granted an opportunity to participate in a powerful and symbolic act of healing, A ceremony called the Day of Acknowledgment. It was a symbolic act by Oregon’s political leadership. The resolution — passed by both the House and the Senate — simply but clearly acknowledged Oregon’s racist history. Sen. Gordly and I worked with many others to shape and move the resolution through the process. It was not easy nor automatic. It took a great deal of sensitivity and patience. But in the end, It was an amazing, transforming, and healing event, an hour long bill signing ceremony held in the House chambers. I asked for the opportunity to introduce some of our speakers and to sit at the podium because I wanted to see the room, I wanted to see the people’s faces.
“At first we reserved the desks on the floor for the members of the House and Senate and their staff. Oregonians of all ethnic and racial heritage sat on the side and in the gallery. They filled the room and overflowed to other rooms where they could watch on TV. As is the nature of legislative life, not all the members were present at the appointed hour so the speaker of the house invited the people of Oregon to come out and sit on the floor, to take their seats in the Chamber. For a moment, they hesitated, and then Oregonians — Oregonians of all colors and dress — came and took joyful possession of their chamber. For years I have seen white, economically successful men and women sit in those desks and I have known that something was missing, that the pallet was somehow too monochromatic….
“Four o’clock in the afternoon of April 22, 1999 is a moment in history where change happened. And like all moments of change, it is only when we look back can we see how the forces of water and earth came together to form this new
bend in the river. Citizens of Richmond Virginia — you were there. Your work with your own walk of
history, your pioneering work in racial dialogues, came to Portland two years ago and showed us —
at a conference on racial issues at Portland State University — that there is something we can do
together to heal not only the wounds of the past but also to forge a new future. We formed dialogue
groups based on the Hope in the Cities process and we were supported both financially and
intellectually by Hope in the Cities as an ad hoc group of activists who came together to first plan
the celebration of the Day of Acknowledgement and now to form our own non profit organization called
“We are not done. Oregon Uniting is continuing racial dialogues based on the Hope in the Cities discussion guide. We will be training 13 new facilitators in January. We will be extending our dialogue process out to the rest of the state…. We are discussing changing or adding murals to our 1930s state capitol in order to make them more inclusive of all Oregonians. We are preparing to mark our own racial history so that we can teach it to ourselves and future generations. We will encourage the passage of similar resolutions in our sister territorial states of Idaho and Washington.”
LaLande, Jeff. “DIXIE” OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST:
SOUTHERN OREGON’S CIVIL WAR. Oregon Historical Quarterly 1999 100(1): 32 81. Abstract: Interest in Civil War events was intense among residents of the Pacific Northwest, despite their geographical isolation from the conflict. Official war correspondence and eyewitness accounts dominated the region’s newspapers. Arguments over states’ rights and slavery were especially bitter in southern Oregon whose population was comprised mainly of settlers from Missouri, Kentucky, and the conservative districts of Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois where residents, fearful of a despotic central government run by abolitionist and urban capitalists, were sympathetic to the Confederacy. During this period the region’s voters gained a reputation as “prone to extremes.” Though they abhorred the idea of a strong central government, most residents were Unionists at heart.
“An industrial survey taken of black workers in 1941 shows Portland Negro workers employed as follows:
98.6% railroad industry, in some capacity such as waiters, cooks, porters, redcaps, and shop
1% in private industry and domestic service;
0.4% in business and professions.” (from Lenwood Davis, Sources for History of Blacks in Oregon (Oregon History Quarterly, 73 #3, 9/1972), 207)
On August 20, 1851, a black man named Jacob Vanderpool, who owned a saloon, restaurant and boarding house across the street from the offices of the Oregon Statesman in Salem, was arrested and jailed. His crime was living illegally in Oregon because he was black. Theophilus Magruder had filed a complaint against him, saying that his residence in Oregon was illegal because of an exclusion law passed by the Territorial government in 1849. Five days later, Vanderpool was brought to trial. His defense lawyer argued that the law was unconstitutional since it had not been legally approved by the legislature. The prosecution produced three witnesses who verified the date of Vanderpool’s arrival in Oregon. All three were vague. A verdict was rendered the following day, and Judge Thomas Nelson ordered Jacob Vanderpool to leave Oregon.
“Provided, however, that during the period of twenty five years from and after the 11th day of May 1931 . . . (all buildings) shall not be used or occupied by Chinese, Japanese or Negroes, except that persons of such races may be employed as servants upon said premises.”
Sept. 23, 1931, deed for Portland property
“Article 34. A Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.”
National code of ethics followed by Oregon Realtors, 1948
“P.S…. Property definitely restricted to the white race.”
Jan. 5, 1952, letter written by The Lake Oswego
Source: Darrell Millner, professor of black
history at Portland State University
“Racial prejudice stains the history of Oregon, even constitution, laws”
Wednesday April 21, 1999
By Gwenda Richards Oshiro of The Oregonian
Available at: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/
%u201COn Thursday, Oregon’s leaders will
take an unprecedented step toward racial healing:
They will formally acknowledge that this state’s
history is pockmarked by discriminatory deeds. And
they will acknowledge that the injustices endured
by Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos,
Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and others
resulted not just from individual bigotry, but also
from laws passed by Oregon leaders and supported
by its citizenry.
The observance coincides with the 150th
anniversary of one of the most discriminatory of
laws: the Territorial Exclusionary Act, passed on
Sept. 21, 1849, making it illegal for “negroes and
mulattoes” to live in the Oregon Territory.
Lawmakers said then the law was needed to
keep blacks from “instilling (in Indians) . . . feelings
of hostility against the white race.”
The law was never fully enforced, and scholars
point to just one, and possibly two, blacks expelled
from the territory because of it. But the law
discouraged many black pioneers from settling in
Oregon, scholars say.
It was actually the second exclusionary act passed
by territorial lawmakers. The first was adopted in
1844, a year after Oregon leaders passed an anti-
slavery law. The exclusionary act mandated
whipping and then public auction of blacks who
refused to leave. Repealed in 1845, the law was
adopted again in 1849.
Repealed again in 1853, the provision to
exclude blacks was ultimately included in the
Oregon Constitution ratified by Congress in 1859.
And even though the 14th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution in 1868 effectively superseded the
Oregon law, the exclusionary act remained in the
state constitution until 1926.
It wasn’t the only law that excluded minorities
from opportunities enjoyed by Oregon’s white
pioneers. The Donation Land Act passed by
Congress in 1850 restricted Oregon homestead
land; often wrested from Indians, to white settlers
and “American half-breed Indians.” Poll taxes were
levied against blacks, Chinese, Hawaiians and
people of mixed races.
And in 1866, in a law that would endure until
1951, state leaders prohibited marriages between’
whites and those with one-quarter or more black,
Chinese or Hawaiian blood or those having more
than one-half Indian blood.
20th century Because so few blacks lived in
early Oregon, bias often was directed at other
“Most of the discriminatory acts going on in
Oregon were not against blacks but Asians,
particularly Chinese,” said Darrell Millner, professor
of Black history at Portland State University. “White
Americans on the West Coast had a tremendous
fear of what they called ‘yellow peril.’ ”
To Learn More
Here are some books and reports that offer more
information about Oregon’s racial history:
Cornerstones of Community: The
Buildings of Portland’s African American History; b> by the Bosco Milligan Foundation; available at
Reflections Coffee and Books, 446 N.E.
Killingsworth St., Portland, 288 6942; or from the
foundation, 231 7264.
Ethnic and Gender Discrimination in
Portland: 1844 1980, Chapter 2, Oregon
Regional Disparity Study; Elizabeth McLagan; call
Straight Ahead: Essays on the Struggle
of Blacks in America, 1934 1994; William H.
McClendon; with emphasis on Oregon.
History of Portland’s African American
Community, 1805 to Present; Kimberly
Moreland; city of Portland.
City Club of Portland reports published between the 1940s and 1960s on African Americans and racial justice. Call 228 7231.
A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788 1940; Elizabeth McLagan;
The Oregon Black History Project.
Vanport; Manly Maben.
In Search of the Racial Frontier; Quintard Taylor.
Black Pioneers of the Northwest, 1800 1918; Martha Anderson.
Hooded Americanism; David M. Chalmers; includes a chapter on the Ku Klux Klan in Oregon.
The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915 1930; Kenneth T. Jackson; includes a chapter on Oregon.