RELEASE: Oregon State Archives to Host First-Ever Black History Month Exhibit “Black in Oregon, 1840-1870”

SALEM, OR — On February 5, the Oregon State Archives, a division of the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, will unveil its first ever Black History Month exhibit entitled, Black in Oregon, 1840-1870. The exhibit will feature stories, photos, and documents of early black pioneers in the Pacific Northwest.

“For the first time in Oregon history, we will unveil an exhibit written through the eyes of black Oregonians, for the benefit of all Oregonians,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “Our state has a long history and record of racial inequality and prejudice. Using the records in the Oregon State Archives, this exhibit attempts to give voice to the brave and resilient black pioneers who overcame incredible barriers to make a life for themselves and their families in Oregon. This exhibit also seeks to challenge a new generation of Oregonians to learn about these stories and be made aware that discrimination continues today.”

The first exclusionary law in Oregon was written in 1844. In 1857, the barring of African-Americans from Oregon was explicitly written and adopted into Oregon’s Constitution. Also enacted during this time were various laws prohibiting property ownership, interracial marriage, lash laws (the public beating of blacks until they left the territory), and settlement by African-Americans in Oregon. Despite these obstructions, African-Americans did settle in Oregon. Some came of their own accord, while others were brought as slaves. The Exclusionary Clause was not removed until 1926 by Ballot Measure 3 (the vote was 108,332 to 64,954). In 2002, Ballot Measure 14 passed with 71% of the vote and removed all lingering racist language from the Oregon Constitution.

Black in Oregon, 1840-1870 is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8am-4:45pm and will run from February 5 - August 24, 2018. The Oregon State Archives is located at 800 Summer St NE, Salem, OR 97310.