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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Lake Oswego


Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Strongly Democratic
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1970 14573
1990 30576 159
2000 35278

Method of Exclusion

  • Reputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


An Oregon resident writes, %u201CLake Oswego is a very wealthy suburb of Portland and is notoriously referred to as “Lake No Negro.” An historian also confirms that Lake Oswego a small, affluent suburb outside of Portland, OR that locals often call “Lake No Negro” for its recognition as an elite white suburb.%u201D

From Elizabeth McLagan, _A Peculiar Paradise: Blacks in Oregon_ (Portland: Georgian, 1980):

The OR Improvement Co., mine-owner, hired Chinese as cheap labor in WA and OR. In c.1885 white workers forced the company to fire its Chinese workers. (p. 96) “In 1891, the OR Improvement Co. hired more than 500 blacks (including 50 women and children) to leave St. Paul to go to Franklin, WA. (p. 98) At Wilkeson, Pierce County, whites resolved, “We will no longer submit to the introduction of the Negro race amongst us…” Blacks were from IL, MO, etc. Owner lied to them, “no labor trouble…” But, “The black workers at Franklin were not ignorant tools of the OIC. For reasons of economic self-interest and racial pride they chose to remain and ally themselves with the OIC against the white strikers.” White workers lost. (p. 99, 104)

OR Territory passed laws excluding blacks twice during the 1840s and as part of the 1857 state constitution. Only one man, in 1851, was expelled from OR due to being black. In 1844 they passed such a law, designed to take effect in 1846, but they repealed it in 1845; then again in 1849 they passed it. (p. 24-26)
In 1851, two petitions to undo the 1849 law passed, one on behalf of George Washington, founder of Centralia, WA (part of OR Territory), but they failed to pass. (p. 27)
In 1854, various territorial laws were repealed including this one, more or less by accident. (p. 27-28)
Voters in 1857 approved the constitutional provision excluding blacks, 8640 for, 1081 against; OR did not repeal the prohibition until 1926! (p. 28, 39)
In the 1850s OR was overwhelmingly Democratic. (p. 39) But in 1862 the “Union Party” won a majority of the state legislature. (p. 39, 64) But the Union Party passed racist laws too. Southern sympathizers, deserters from the Confederate Army in MO, settled in southern and eastern OR, 1864. Many Democrats joined the Knights of the Golden Circle, especially in Portland, Salem, Scio, Albany, Jacksonville, Yamhill County, the Long Tom River valley, and the Siuslaw river valley. (p. 65, 104)
OR ratified the 14th Amendment, then repealed its ratification, but the original stood. OR ratified the 15th Amendment only in 1959! Indeed, in 1916 OR voted, 100,027 to 100,701, to retain its constitutional clause that prevented blacks from voting! (although it was moot due to the 15th Amendment) (p. 70-71, 162)
“In 1893 the citizens of Liberty, OR, requested that all the black people leave town…. More than 80 years later [1978] … residents of Curry County vetoed federal money for low cost housing because ‘all the niggers will move down from Portland.'” (p. 79)

Blacks were .41% of OR population in 1850; .22% in 1910, lowest ebb; 1.26% in 1970. (p. 185)