Portland’s Racist History

Portland has a deep and ugly history of racism, one that we for too long have chosen to ignore. We are determined in this moment to lament with and listen to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, and to learn more about and recognize racism in our present and past.

We see in Jesus a God who listens intently, grieves deeply, weeps, and prays. As followers of Jesus, we aim to follow his example.

We are calling the followers of Jesus in Portland to stand in places where sins against the Black community in Portland have taken place, holding space for the pain that has occurred there, and pray and lament to God — turning places of pain into altars of prayer.

Oregon’s Founding

In 1844, all Black people were ordered to get out of Oregon Country, as government leaders made plans to establish America’s first and only “all-white” state.

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Ku Klux Klan

Racism was deeply entrenched in the laws, culture, and social life of Oregon, making it an ideal climate for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Vanport was the nation’s largest wartime housing development where many members of the Black community lived as a result of racial segregation. In 1948, it was destroyed by a flood.

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Black Homes

Over 400 primarily Black-owned homes were demolished in order to build the Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

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Black Businesses

Site of Black-owned businesses and first hotel to accommodate Black patrons. It was a social center and a focal point of the Black community.

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Burger Barn

In 1981, two on-duty police officers toss four dead opossums in front of the Burger Barn, a black-owned restaurant in Northeast Portland.

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Lloyd “Tony” Stevenson

In 1985, Lloyd “Tony” Stevenson, an off-duty security guard, helped stop a thief at a 7-Eleven and was later placed in choke hold by Portland Police, resulting in his death.

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Mulugeta Seraw

In 1988, Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, was attacked and murdered outside his home by three members of the skinhead group East Side White Pride.

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Kendra James

In 2003, Kendra James, an unarmed Black woman was shot and killed during a traffic stop in North Portland.

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