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No Blacks Allowed: Oregon’s Dark Past As A Racist Utopia Explains Why So Few Blacks Are There Today

Oregon racist pastOregon is known for its stunning wildlife and delicious coffee, but a close look at the state’s past reveals that its racist legislative founders wanted the western state to be known for something else—a racist utopia for white people.

Oregon has one of the smallest Black populations in the entire country—less than 3 percent of its population is Black, according to a 2013 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.

And that’s exactly how its founders would have wanted it.

While the average high school history class talks about slavery and racism as if they were problems contained in the Deep South, Oregon’s past is yet another reminder of how false that really was.

The entire state was founded on a set of laws and general beliefs that oppressed the Black community and made daily life extremely hard for them.

To be fair, many states outsides the Confederacy were founded on the same principles but Oregon was unique in the fact that they were willing to put their racial bias on paper.

“What’s useful about Oregon as a cast study is that Oregon was bold enough to write it down,” Walidah Imarisha, an educator and expert on Black history in Oregon, told Gizmodo. “But the same ideology, policies, and practices that shaped Oregon shaped every state in the Union, as well as this nation as a whole.”

Oregon didn’t stop at posting “White Trade Only” signs in business windows or turning a blind eye to threats made against Black citizens. Leaders also wrote laws specifically to keep Black people out of the state.

Ever since Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it actually forbade Black people from living, working or owning property in the state.

It was only in 1926 that Black people were even allowed to move to Oregon.

The majority of people in the state agreed that they were not in support of slavery, but they still wanted nothing to do with the Black community.

So for the natives that had already settled in the land and any other Black people within the state’s borders, they were given two years to pack up and leave.

In 1844 the Legislative Committee passed a provision that required all free Black people to leave the state within two years or be subjected to flogging. The provision said that the floggings, or beatings, would continue every six months until they left the state.

By 1845, that piece of legislation was revised.

The new provision stated that Black people still left in the state’s borders would be “publicly for hire” to any white person that would get them out of the state.

It is generally believed that the provision was giving white people the right to enslave Black people as long as they would take them out of the budding white utopia.

Perhaps even more concerning was the fact that the legislators believed they were acting morally by keeping Black people from living around white people.

“We were building a new state on virgin ground,” one noted “pioneer” voter of the legislation said during a reunion in 1898. “Its people believed it should encourage only the best elements to come to us, and discourage others.”

This voter eventually became a Republican state senator.

It was one of the early examples of racially coded language in the U.S.—his reference to white people as the “best elements” and Black people as “others”—and it essentially laid the groundwork for what would be years of oppressing and abusing any Black people who dared to enter the state.

“If you look at some of the recruiting materials, in essence they’re saying come and build the kind of white homeland, the kind of white utopia that you dream of,” Imarisha added. “Other communities of color were also controlled, not with exclusion laws, but the populations were kept purposefully small because the idea behind it was about creating explicitly a white homeland.”

As years flew by, the state’s idea of a white utopia was thwarted by federal law.

While the state ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866, it rescinded its ratification in 1868. As many scholars pointed out, the move was a strategic one that sent a message to the Black community to steer clear of Oregon.

Golden WestEventually, more than 100 years later, activists made their way to the state and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment again in 1973.

Before that time came, however, people of color were left struggling to find a place where they could have a sense of community. That’s where the Golden West Hotel came into play.

The unique establishment was owned and operated by Black people in Oregon.

This means white people tended to steer clear of the establishment, making it a hot spot for Oregon’s Black community as long as it could keep its doors open.

Portland authorities often tried to shut the Golden West down by making up false charges of prostitution and gambling. At one point they even claimed the owners didn’t have the “proper licenses” to keep the place open.

It’s also important to note that even the Golden West wasn’t a perfectly safe place for Black people. White people would sometimes make their way inside simply to harass or threaten the Black patrons.

Even with those conditions, however, it was the best place the Black community had to come together.

With the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan in 1922, it seemed like Oregon would never grow to be a welcoming place for Black people.

The Klan quickly garnered thousands of members, roughly 9,000 men in Portland alone, and struck fear into the Black community throughout the state.

To be clear, this was no organization full of your average joes. Politicians at every level were involved with the Klan and worked closely with the white supremacy group to attempt to rid the state of all Black people.

As the Black population quickly decreased, so did Klan membership.

KKK March in AshlandBy the time 1926 came, the Klan in Oregon was nowhere near the massive force it was when it first began.

Even that didn’t bring an end to racism in the state, of course.

Businesses still asked people of color to steer clear of their establishments and one 1999 documentary features the account of one man who recalled signs downtown that read, “We don’t serve Negroes, Jews or dogs.”

So as the state still struggles to create an accepting environment for African-Americans, it’s important to realize just how much Oregon’s racist history already laid the foundation for it to become the place it is today—a state where there seems to be far more Confederate flags than Black faces.

It also serves as a reminder that racism was never a problem that was contained to one region of America—it swept the nation, regardless of whether legislatures were bold enough to put it in writing or not.

What people are saying

87 thoughts on “No Blacks Allowed: Oregon’s Dark Past As A Racist Utopia Explains Why So Few Blacks Are There Today

  1. I think I will move there. Just what Iam looking for. No blacks.

  2. Dawn Knight says:

    Wonder how your employer will feel about your bigoted sentiments when they get the screenshots?

  3. Well aren't you just especially ignorant….lol.

  4. Scarlett Fox says:

    No blacks and a lot o Adam Lanza's and James Holmes.

  5. hahahaha. no blacks for Jackie PeeWee Dillon…hahahaha.

  6. It would also be great it your people got the hell out of Africa.

  7. Everyone gets to say what they like without fear of reprisal. Heck, Oprah called for all white people to die and nothing happened to her. Anyone who tries to torpedo Mr. Dillon for giving his opinion is a hypocrite. Cool it, move to Oregon and try to change it from within. 😉

  8. imagine how small and empty his mind and heart is? It is like the famous needle hole that the camel cannot squeeze through.

  9. Better check your genetics………never know!

  10. John Lindsay says:

    "So for the natives that had already settled in the land and any other Black people within the state’s borders, they were given two years to pack up and leave."

    JL: I bet they were FORCED to sell their land for pennies on the dollar….as White buyers knew they had no other choice but to sell.
    Indeed another case for reparations.

    The following 2 books also demonstrate how African Americans and other People of Color lost their land in various states, leading them to being corralled in cities.
    Even with the advances that have been made, African Americans –as a group– own less land today than they did in 1915….100 years ago.

    1. Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America Paperback – May 6, 2008 by Elliot Jaspin (Author).

    http://www.amazon.com/Buried-Bitter-Waters-History-Cleansing/dp/0465036376/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422737082&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=buried+in+deep+waters+and+ethnic+cleansing

    2. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism Paperback – October 3, 2006.
    by James W. Loewen (Author)

    http://www.amazon.com/Sundown-Towns-Hidden-Dimension-American/dp/0743294483/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422737300&sr=8-1&keywords=sundown+towns+a+hidden+dimension+of+american+racism

  11. John Lindsay says:

    Very good, Jackie!

    I'm absolutely delighted that you're moving your racist and stinking azz AWAY FROM US!

  12. John Lindsay says:

    The r-e-a-l-l-y stupid thing about Jackie's comment is….there have NEVER been any pure Whites….because ALL other peoples came from Africans.

    1. http://newsreel.org/video/RACE-THE-POWER-OF-AN-ILLUSION

    2. "When humans first ventured out of Africa some 60,000 years ago, they left genetic footprints still visible today. By mapping the appearance and frequency of genetic markers in modern peoples, we create a picture of when and where ancient humans moved around the world. These great migrations eventually led the descendants of a small group of Africans to occupy even the farthest reaches of the Earth.

    Our species is an African one: Africa is where we first evolved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth."

    https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/human-journey/

    3. "Why are genetic studies being carried out on African populations?

    "All humans trace their heritage to Africa, where humans first evolved and then migrated around the globe. Previous studies, such as the International HapMap Project, show that African populations have the greatest amount of genetic variability."

    Hence, there's no way Jackie can run away from himself. 🙂

    http://www.genome.gov/27540081

  13. Jackie PeeWee Dilllon, You must have wanted Blacks, otherwise you wouldn't have come all the way to Africa to kidnap us.

  14. To Jackie Peewee dillion you is one of stupidest people on god green earth check you blood line and you to will find that your not ass white as you think.My brother

  15. Rich Smith says:

    Black people migrated out Africa way before 60,000 year's ago try 75,000+

  16. Good!!!! Go!!! The more of your kind that move away and/or die off, the better world it will be!

  17. Perhaps my bias stems from being from Washington and having lived in California at different times but Oregon is actually still seemingly not very pleasent so good luck to anyone who'd want to move there. You may well find yourself regretting it terribly.

  18. Don Denman says:

    Die off quickly Pee Wee please do !!

  19. You never know who might come looking for you PeeWee, someone might cut off that pathetic pinky sized phallus you call a dick, shove a cactus up your ass pull it out and then make you deep throat it…not me of course! I would nevvverr! "Im just playin but I'm sayin" oh btw, how did you find yourself viewing an article at atlantablackstar.com……….

  20. luci ryan says:

    Please do it and with haste. Take your bigotry, racism, prejudice, dark heart to where you might fit in. Your kind destroys this country. Despicable darkness.

  21. luci ryan says:

    Pee Wee is apropo

  22. Your Christian brothers. Forgive them, love them, hold hands, walk across the Selman bridge and sing "we shall overcome" isn't that how it goes?

  23. Born and raised its still all KKK

  24. Thanks for sharing..Oregon has never been on my list of places to see anyway. #ByeBye

  25. Luke Weirup says:

    I guess you can just write anything down and call it an article now. Every state has a shameful racist past. The problem is that when you polarize one negative aspect with out even mentioning the positive you dishonor all of Oregon's great black pioneers. You dishonor their hard work, the lives they lived, and most important the communities they established. Not all of oregon was racist, just the ignorant minority. More confederate flags than blacks? Oregon is more of a melting pot than Atlanta will ever be.

  26. I doubt that it is more of a melting pot; however, I've never been there so… BUT I respect your comment and point of view.

  27. Thank you for posting those good reads!

  28. I love that Dr Imarisha is shedding light on WHY our communities are riddled with problems today. The legacy of white supremacy racism structurally undermines our efforts to attain peace, liberty, dignity and the pursuit of happiness. Meanwhile, the majority blames us for the problems they created and continue to add insult to injury.

  29. It's no melting pot here in Oregon, even in comparison to Atlanta. And that's the least flawed thing about your unfortunate statement.

  30. Kielen King says:

    "Oregon has one of the smallest Black populations in the entire country—less than 3 percent of its population is Black, according to a 2013 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau."

    LOL…If by "melting pot" you mean a pot containing a single ingredient, then sure! …I've lived in Oregon for 10 years and have plenty of friends here, but there's no f'ing melting pot. It's a state that doesn't consider other ethnic groups because it doesn't have to. The populace here likes the "idea" of diversity, but has no idea what that actually means or how to encourage or promote it. Portland has been a decent place to live for some time now, but outside of the population centers, it is definitely not a "safe space" for minorities.

  31. Atlanta is 54% African American and 35% white. African Americans have nicknamed it "Blacklanta" partly because of the economic and political power they hold there. Oregon has a 3% African American population as a direct result of this history illustrated in the article.

    Like most of the country, including the South, it has changed dramatically in recent decades but we should never deny this shameful history that is nationwide.

  32. "Oregon didn’t stop at posting “White Trade Only” signs in business windows or turning a blind eye to threats made against Black citizens. Leaders also wrote laws specifically to keep Black people out of the state.*
    Ever since Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it actually forbade Black people from living, working or owning property in the state.*"
    *Such incredible statements should really be backed up with some sort of citation. Using them anecdotally this way leaves them rather hollow and hard to believe.
    If they "wrote it down" why not present what they wrote, verbatim? What more compelling proof could there possibly be?
    I pray that this was offered as op/ed rather than reporting.

  33. They also wrote this, "In 1844 the Legislative Committee passed a provision that required all free Black people to leave the state within two years or be subjected to flogging." Oregon wasn't a state until 1859…

  34. Have you been to Oregon? I'm living there now and know people who have lived in the state all their lives. This article is stating the truth!

  35. Maj Grody Bludflough And, pray tell, what body of government is "The Legislative Committee"? What powers did it hold? Who elected or assigned it and who were its members? And you're right, until 1859 Oregon was part of a much larger Territory.
    And this part is just utterly baffling:
    "So for the natives that had already settled in the land and any other Black people within the state’s borders, they were given two years to pack up and leave."
    Who are these "natives? Native Americans? Blacks who already lived there at the time? Who the heck are they? Please, someone help me. I'm drowning in a sea of amateur journalism, lazy editting and do-it-yourself fact-checking.
    And, finally:
    “ 'We were building a new state on virgin ground,” one noted “pioneer” voter of the legislation said during a reunion in 1898. “Its people believed it should encourage only the best elements to come to us, and discourage others.'
    This voter eventually became a Republican state senator."
    At this time I think the Republicans were still the party of Abraham Lincoln, the guy who I'm pretty sure wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.
    But then who'd want to offer context in a situation like this?

  36. Have you been to Atlanta? Portland is a 'melting pot' of different types of white stereotypes.

  37. Luke Weirup says:

    I was mostly wrong with my comment months ago, particularly saying melting pot. I'd delete it if I could. However saying that so few blacks live there because of its shameful racist past is just false. All states have a racist past. What are the race percentages of Hawaii? Montana? Wyoming?Washington State? The states with large black population are former slave states. States with Shameful racist pasts are everywhere, but pale in comparison to the South.

  38. Citations? I'd like read more about this from other sources.

  39. Amanda Robin Thanks! I was referring to the citations on the legislative committee which don't appear in the Gizmodo article, but perhaps the author of this article is referencing information from the Eden Within Eden book mentioned in the Gizmodo article…

  40. Vishnette Stachine Oregon was at the time, a territory. Nobody owned anybody here. However, the Russians are the oldest European culure to inhabit these areas with the natives of the times.

  41. Don Bishoff says:

    This is a fair treatment of Oregon's racist history and current low African-American population. However, your line, "a state here there seemsto be far more Confederate flags than Black faces," is gratuitous and factually unsustainable. I've lived her for 55 years and can't believe that there are 100,000 Confederate flags here. Only a few is some of the more redneck rural parts of the state.

  42. Don: after 20 years running a Fair Housing project in Eugene, Springfield,
    Lane County and rural south, mid and eastern Oregon I can attribute the conytinued existence of rascism in many not such rural counties, such that attempts to establish NAACP chapters were forcibly run out of town, See my facebook posts.

  43. David Ratsack Mitsak What's keeping you? I'm sure that no one would care if you left. Orgon is beautiful country. Pack your bags !!!!

  44. They call him PEEWEE for a reason, lol

  45. i guess shit! usa has freedom of speech? lol

  46. a black african who moved to usa. was one of the biggest slave owner in American history. Anthony johnson

  47. many moved to china then. called guangzhou today

  48. because the original kkk were democrats from the north and democrat supporters who were and still very racist today

  49. not sure about all this,. cause in africa. when this history all began. ! they sold their people to jews. the jews then sold to egyptians before the "others" infact
    America's biggest slave owner was an african . he was a professional servant who then was able to own white and black slaves in USA himself. His name was Anthony Johnson.

  50. Oregon wanted only smart, healthy, productive people. I like the way they kept the criminals, the ugly, the ignorant, the inarticulate, and the smelly out of the state. Oregon will never become the looted scorched hellhole Detroit is or have the evil animal savagery of Chicongo. All the statistical and historical evidence from everywhere shows the wisdom of Oregon's leadership in keeping disasters from ruining their state.

  51. All life comes from BLACK life!!

  52. Rod Pratt says:

    Melting pot? You can't live in Oregon

  53. Jerry Johns says:

    I guest that's why you took time to involve yourself in this discussion. I'm quite sure you knew it would be most likely black people. Your inferiority complex is showing…

  54. And what would you do to me if I did come there boy??

  55. What about the native Americans whose land was stolen who were already living there??

  56. Devin Clark says:

    Clarence Green
    Haha, nothing. Come here.

  57. Sandi Whiteside "otherwise you wouldn't have come all the way to Africa to kidnap us"

    No clue where the OP and his forebears are from, Sandi, but the major travelers to Africa to transport slaves were the Portuguese, the Spanish, and to a much lesser extent the English. That for the Atlantic trade, of course, the number taken off the East coast of Africa by Arabs, dating back centuries and continuing theough the 20th, was far larger.

  58. There are a few of us here. But most of us just get pushed out into the numbers or burbs. I've never had a job where 3 black people worked together.

  59. Rofl!! The Hispanic and Asian population is higher than 3%. Portland is still racist! Just packaged under urban renewal and I have a Black friend I'm not racist.

  60. Not any more idiot. Plus, it's a very liberal state

  61. Now it's a liberal democratic uptopia. lol

  62. Amber Sutton-Perez Lmao!! Righht!! They can't wait to get away from us….but some how always finding their way around us…all up in our space…They don't really wanna be where we're not…they prove it every time!!

  63. Erik Nash says:

    Jackie R Dillon, you're about 45-51 years too late. I used to live in Roseburg, Oregon and there were lots of blacks (even there). This story is about Oregon's past not its present or future. If you want a homogenous no black state (or better yet country)move to Russia.

  64. Erik Nash says:

    I know a little bit about that history. I even lived in a town where there was a hand carved sign just on the outskirts of town that read; "Nigger don't let the sun go down and be caught in this town". The feds made them take that sign down around 1979. The town was Winston, Oregon

  65. Erik Nash says:

    Oh, you're missing out some of the best fishing and natural beauty in the "Great Pacific Northwest". Don't let some place's idiotic and stupid past make your decisions for you. Go and see it for yourself!

  66. Erik Nash says:

    Hey Dave, Oregon was never a melting pot! Lets get that straigt right now! Because it wasn't until recently (about 30-35 years ago), that blacks even admitted to living in Portland. Oh sure, you saw a few around, but not the numbers that you're tossing out there.

  67. Fee Fee W says:

    This has been known for years because I remember reading about this while I was in High School. Maybe because my American History Teacher was of color. Its really sad that some people feel that because their skin is a different color they are better than Anyone. We all have the same things on the insides of our bodies. Your ancestors brought our ancestors here, they didn't ask to be here. Be upset with your ancestors, not people of color.

  68. What is the European Union? 99,9% white power

  69. Keith M Davis Truth.
    This article very misleading. This area is a lot more liberalike "populated" than the article makes it sound.
    I do believe ol' Jackie will be in for a massive surprise.

  70. Tim Scott Mercurio
    Not freedom from repercussions of that speech.

  71. Ohhh, you can do better than that, Jack … there's the moon, Mars!

  72. Gary Cooper says:

    If you don't want to be around black people you could just kill yourself and do us all a favor. So the choice is yours!

  73. Bronwyn Máiréad Sounds more than likely English, the dirty bastards did the Trans Atlantic and Black birding in the Pacific Melanesia , Australia, Polynesia so the English gets the fuqn finger too !!

  74. And your visiting BLACK forums, why?, Your such a pathetic loser LOL a NOBODY!! It seems like it's always your kind that seeks the attention of BLACKS, because your Sooooooo poor and useless that you need to believe that your even on the minds of people of color.# Your Redundant

  75. Jackie hurry up and get your UHAUL!!!, take all the rest of your kind with you.

  76. Gary Scheuer says:

    Tim Scott Mercurio Yes the original KKK members were Conservative Democrats. But the majority of them (men such as Strom Thurmond and Jess Helms -men I'm guessing you admire) moved over to the GOP when LBJ started supporting Civil Rights. their excuse was that the DNC was no longer "Conservative" enough. Incidentally, probably one of the first times that "Conservative" was used as a euphemism for "racist." Once in the GOP, they helped from the Southern Strategy, a tactic designed to appeal to people such as yourself. People they referred to as "Negrophobes."

  77. people, please do the research for yourselves. you will find all you need if you dig deep enough. don't leave it to someone else to find this information.

  78. Jay Collins says:

    Clarence Green fuck that dude. you can't reason with unreasonable people. he is clearly a republican and they are all emotional messes. his life is based on fear. i'd almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't a piece of human garbage.

  79. Jay Collins says:

    what did you say uncle tom?

  80. Jay Collins says:

    Tim Scott Mercurio democrats were originally from the south. republicans were in the north and came from the wig party. but we switched around the 1920s. it's funny, that republicans are now what the democrats were and vice versa. the only thing that really happened was they switched names. the slave holding southerners were democrats, now they are republicans. it's just a name. anyway, i can see you're a troll just trying to piss people off. i just don't want you spreading your stupid to anyone else

  81. Jay Collins says:

    thats not factual. most crimes that affect white people are comitted by white people, and most crimes that happen to black people is committed by a black person. it's because we are segragated. they also do not commit crimes more often then us. you're just an uneducated biggot. i can cite everything i've said, and show you the stastics. anyway, have fun voting for trumph and marrying your cousin.

  82. Jay Collins , I said you are an idiot

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