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This is my home. I was born in Portland. I went to high school and college here. And I worked as a television reporter in this market for 20 years before I came across this story. By then. It was almost too late to tell. The problem is we should have been doing this. 15 or 20 years ago because. All of those who really could contribute. They're dead now. And I'm damn near dead so why not go out to your do. We are going to talk to you. Almost 80 years old are doing rather Fred knows a history of Portland Oregon and most people black or white have never heard this but it is sad because I say that young people think that everything has been just like it is now a far cry from being right that it isn't it isn't. There was a time when Portland had a reputation as the most openly racist city
outside the South. A time in Portland Oregon where theaters restaurants and hotels were segregated are off limits to African-Americans. When discrimination in jobs in housing was practiced openly. And black people knew better than to apply. And that became after the war years known as the worst place on the Pacific Coast to be black and unemployed looking for work. I do remember the signs downtown we don't serve. Negroes Jews or dogs. Oh yeah right downtown Portland. Yeah. Most all of the properties in Portland. Particularly those under development all spaded. No blacks. No Filipino. No are you old. So for and your title insurance. Stated. That. You could not. Sell.
Because they were not supposed to own property. We were an extreme minority and minorities were just almost white people non-people. You were hands that way if you could. Be as smart as. The next man and still you wouldn't be employed as a teacher. Grade school high. You could be a janitor. This is history still alive in the memories of the city's oldest African-American. And this next hour is an introduction to what they endured. I was in Portland and already we began to change. All. The
noise here. I think well what it would be like with trolleys and. Horse drawn vehicles that I think would be a little better much better. It smelled better too. I used to like the smell the stables the hay. The fire department you know they had all the horses and then that was quite a sight. Pop came in that smoke billowing out of that big. Auto Rutherford was a child in the years before World War One. A time when the center of Portland's small black community was here in the shadow of Union Station. And black owned businesses lined Northwest Broadway. Dad used to have a barber shop on the corner which says parking a. Barber shop on the Broadway side and. Confectionary and men's haberdashery on the Flanders side down on Gleason. Was a grocery store right across from the post office
a very very busy little store. And then across the street from the post office on the Broadway side. There was a shoemaker. That is so long it's all black but these are all black businesses. Then of course you had your. Billiard ball here and there one crossing the post office one of six. Then I had going for probation and had one or two solutions to. The census of 1920 counted more than a quarter of a million people in what was virtually a white city. Through what a rather fridge's use for every black person in Portland. There were 150 white people. The local gathering place for blacks was the Golden West Hotel. The hotel catered to the porters and dining car waiters came in from nearby Union Station. But the Golden West was more than that.
This was a community center. People would come down here on a Sunday. They had ice cream. I had to see all the Broadway sidewalk on the corner and after church. The Baptist church next door so to speak. It. Was a chance to see your friends who lived all over the city. And the only time you saw one I know there was a church. Of course if you are totally. Inclined you might be like your brother or. Sister. But this was a metaphor. Ice-Cream gone out the business because you would see another. Go. The next Sunday unless there was a funeral. Portland was not the South but growing up in a white Portland. Rutherford knew the rules imposed by the White majority. His father for example was a black barber. White men would get haircuts and shaves in a black shop but a white barber wouldn't cut a black man's hair.
Unlike the South blacks could vote and there were no segregated buses or trolleys no segregated drinking fountains or restrooms. Black and white children went to school together in Portland though Portland refused to hire any black teachers in hospitals. Blacks were only admitted in emergencies and then they were kept separate from the White patients. Local skating rinks had a day set aside for black skaters only public swimming pools like the one to Jansson beach refused to admit blacks in theaters that the Broadway theater had a rope across the steps going to the balcony and you could go to the matinee for a quarter and they would drop the rope and send me and my friend upstairs get up there. We'd be the only ones up there. The band just didn't even want to be in there. The Egyptian Theater on a corner. You never knew Russell
lived on the nickel show. Didn't want you in if you did go since there in the belt. I never had my foot in the place and always that was the problem of restaurants in Portland white restaurants wouldn't serve black people no go to a Chinese restaurant. I grew up on Chinese food. As far as restaurants were concerned and the Greeks down on the second they had ice polish they would cater to you. But the first class restaurants no they were not. What did what did that mean. You don't mean you didn't go. LeGrande in eastern Oregon. Like almost every railroad town across the state had a few black families. Her father worked on a railroad section gang and Ellen Torrance law remembers traveling across Oregon.
Some of the towns had signs do not let the sun kitching couldn't stay in town overnight. Throughout Eastern Oregon southern Oregon you were refused service and most of the restaurants you could not stay in the motels. So when you travel across the state then you slipped in your car took a little bit of time off the side of the road and slept in your car. I kept driving all through the gas up and drive on through that the somebodies house and these words were passed on through the years where you can stay at the Torrance's they'll let you stay overnight or you can stay at the Smiths in Baker. They'll keep you in hotels. We talk about sanitation in these terms is that you just stayed in somebody's house because you had to cross country. Catherine Bogle's son grew up to be a Portland city commissioner but as a black
child. Mrs. Bogle's introduction to Oregon prejudice was at the south end of the state. I went to school and could say because my father was transferred to that area and that was a period of time when not anybody spoke to me on the playground. And for one solid year I didn't have any companionship in classes I would wave my hand and I was never called on. I think maybe two or three times I was able to recite in class. This is a conspiracy and I was students at 19 years old and as tough as grade an exercise time on the playground I played alone. The other girls played Jump rope the other girls played jacks. My mother bought me a ball and jacks. And I sat in a corner and I played by myself and that's hard.
I didn't know until later that we were there the same year that that think because the bay area they had hanged the black man lynched him. Within that same period of time. And that was the reason for a very intense way of treating me at a distance. I want to be associated with someone who had been of the same color. I don't know what the reason was but he didn't have a trial on the stand. Catherine Vogel was growing up at a time when Oregon's Ku Klux Klan was at its peak. The Klan elected a governor in 1922. And in Portland this photo survives. Mayor George Baker the chief of police and sheriff posing with local leaders of the KKK.
Portland had a very bad reputation around the racial issues. Portland probably deservedly so because Darrell Milnor head of the black history department at Portland State University in Oregon had the worth of a reputation and a lot of that goes back to the 1840s and 50s when. When Oregon adopted black exclusion laws and that kind of an environment and a mentality that was going to let blacks know from the fire that the intention was to make Oregon a homeland for White early Oregon pioneers that adopted exclusion laws all slaves in Oregon were declared free. But the exclusion laws said all blacks had to leave. The penalty for staying in Oregon was whipping. With statehood in 1859 Oregon adopted a constitution. The original document kept in a vault in Salem includes a bill of rights.
And Article 1 section 35 of the Oregon Bill of Rights says free blacks and mulattoes cannot come to Oregon or make contracts or own property. But there had been free blacks in Oregon from its earliest days and more came by Wagenen ship after 1883. They came by rail including some 75 black men hired to work at the Portland hotel. Oregon voters waited until 1926 before repealing the anti-black section of the Oregon Constitution. In 1931 this restaurant opened up northeast Sandy Boulevard. Coon is a synonym for nigger at the coon chicken customers enter in through the mouth of what the management called a giant coon head. Local blacks who protested the name the entry entryway and the whole premise of the restaurant were ignored and the Coon chicken and thrived through the Depression.
The great depression of the 1930s destroyed local black businesses. Black business people depended on black customers for their trade and when the depression hit blacks were squeezed out. Blacks who had traditionally been in positions like you know busboys cooks or waiters waitresses elevator operator. Those jobs that whites would not touch in generations before and pretty much left to the hands of blacks. Now whites were moving into those jobs and blacks were being moved out. So the economic realities of the 30s really had a very damaging effect on that kind of ability that we had in the black community economically speaking. No grocer. He would go to a department store is over. They would take your business but they wouldn't employ you. Oh they employ you to be a janitor or the ME but as a salesperson. No
hurry to mop out the windows. Salesmen know what kind of jobs were available. As a janitor blacks waiters domestics and red caps porters at the depot. A legend in Portland's black history is the number of college graduates who found careers carrying bags at Union Station. Catherine Bhogle remembers the opportunity she saw as a job hunter a high school graduate. A young woman looking for work in Portland in the late 1930s. Everyone who saw us looked at us as if we were demanded in the first place to think that we might even work there. What did they say to you. What did they say. We do not hire colored people or we have no such employment in a very very
method is to say the very idea. If you're thinking of coming in here looking for work. Eventually Mrs. Bogle took the only job black women were offered for women housework domestic domestic work. People lude as we got to deal with it they did housework. Well they were babysitters and they didn't call them nannies. They took care of the children. That's what they did and that was the only thing unless they were to be a maid in a store. In a theater they always get it made in the ladies room in the theaters. In those days. Other than that nothing. Oh there were. Oh yeah I do recall there were two ladies. I guess you could call a midwife. No I don't know what they called them then but assist the mothers having children because the hospitals would let them in while
Catherine Bhogle was looking for work in Portland. Ellen Torrance law had graduated from high school in LA Grande and enrolled at the University of Oregon in Eugene where there were problems too. You couldn't live with white girls. No not at that time not at that time we told my 1936 at our university. Then they explained that I really was any explanation other than you need to be for university students in Eugene lived four to a room on campus but that year there were only three black women enrolled freshmen were supposed to live off the campus. But they made an exception for us. Young women like Ella law endured segregation and hardship believing education promised a better life. Father had stressed education that he'd brought us from Arkansas to get one. He always said get your education get it up here and
the point is here and it can't be taken away from me. That was so ingrained that I was determined that I was going to finish university or get Ellen law got her degree in 1941 trained as a teacher. It would be years before she could get a job in the Portland schools. Parents understood the value of education but they also knew what it was worth in Oregon. Oh. I should say so. No parent wanted his child to be hampered in progressing in life like he would. No no no no. The mothers worked in no private family and the fathers did. Did you know waiters in booming boardrooms. But they sought to get the picture and were educated. They did like my parents did and their child got out. A graduate of my school sent him
to school so there was no point in staying here a few hundred to up a fashion that there is no profession better. So you left and went somewhere else you got to work and went to college. When you got in your state or so. The depression filled most of the black businesses along North West Broadway. In 2000 blacks who stayed in Portland were working for the railroads where they were waiters or janitors or domestics. A gentleman's agreement among whites was pushing to isolate the black population in the Al-Bayda neighborhood. It was a low point for blacks in Portland. And then came the war. In Iraq and a busy day for Mr. This is what he's got today. How of our employees. Harris won the right to select the boxer for the guards first not fight. Back. Out there on
the first try. I wouldn't want to him an American. On. For. Just time to get back. Being little forget that day. Portland built ships by the hundreds during World War Two and the demand for workers in the Portland shipyards changed the city forever. The war siphoned off young white males onto the battlefields all over the world and to support that war effort. You still needed the employment foundation and so you turned to traditional Forth of the labor to meet those to meet those labor needs of wartime industry and you turned to female and you turned the ethnic minority historic photos from the early
1940s. Focus on the novelty of women working in wartime production. There is far less documentation of the change for African-Americans but overnight Portlands black population increased tenfold. Magic Carpet specials carried trainman workers to Portland from the east and the south. The population would grow by 100000 whites and 25000 black people whites and blacks and their families recruited to the shipyards of Portland. When America needed those blacks in different roles and put those blacks in different roles then that was the process that began the self-examination and it was a very very difficult time period for America not only the war but really calling into question those things that had been unquestioned with so many generations. On the part of my wife at the shipyard most blacks were hired as labor at the bottom skills and pay. The money at the shipyards was in the skilled
job as ironworkers electricians and plumbers. Union Shop new black Portlanders wanted to apply for. Boilermakers I think this article here is a lot Union mission or refuse to work. So that was the emphasis was get rid of it give them any type of the entree into the system. They won't go home captain or. The. That was the attitude of the unions. That was the attitude of some say the general populace here. Blacks were not treated equally in the shipyards the local boilermakers union took a whites only stand and McKinley Burtt remembers plotting to strike the shipyards. Nobody in this part of country ever heard of blacks striking Arka and we threatened to strike the shipyard. And even though we weren't didn't dominate crafts and trade laborers was a significant element there. So the FBI would be watching the bridge. Interstate bridge CSX is going over going all mine over to Vancouver shipyard. That's where I began work with the
FBI watching what we did. We got robo in that night we rode across the Columbia. To the outfitting docks over there and then we had whole secret meetings and the duck and the bottom of the ship. We all ourselves at the time yeah. I. Maybe got 10 20 years just for FREE. Yeah you're right. And if the war effort you see there's got to interject. Did you ever like thinking about a strike. I'm thinking about an advertisement calling for a during wartime. And Russia rescued have been shot immediately. There was no strike but the government's anti-discrimination policy was ignored. The boiler makers who controlled most of the shipyard jobs forced blacks into a phony auxiliary union for as long as the war lasted. Blacks might have the jobs and the income but after the war.
Inevitably not being union member you would be unemployed. The new war time population Portland's new labor force white and black needed housing. New public housing went up almost overnight. The largest development was then port in the flood plains south of gensym beach were years port was the second largest city in Oregon. A multi-racial community today is only a memory. Periodically I have dreams about Van Ford and I can see it as it actually was vividly vivid dreams in color. You know I can see the schools I can see the area just like it was. You say the population of Port was three quarters white one quarter black just as in the shipyards. Most of the surviving photographs show only whites Fred and Regina flowers no better what they. I think we are phenomenal because we grew up together as children that I had ever been. Then we met a man named Marshall Larsen in 1945.
You know in the sixth grade. So then port housing was segregated with neighborhoods that were either all white or all black like Portland. The schools were integrated. The difference had been poor it the administration would hire black teachers basically most of the blacks were living. In. This area here here here and the whites had units that were much better constructed and much more like a house in their parents none the less the close proximity of the people living in this area. That was called the city itself. Actually brought about social integration. I mean it actually you know they shopped together they went to school together. And even though that was separation then the housing itself. They still had to cross each other and point income and therefore people made friends. People learn things about people. Myths were destroyed. You know it didn't really bother me because I socialization was in school
very well integrated no problem whatsoever. So it didn't really bother me go home at night. We played with all black kids or whatever. It didn't really bother us at all. We we didn't deal with the racial issue as our parents did because we were kids but race was an issue. The war had brought a new and larger black population. One result had Portland white trade only signs blossomed. They had the audacity to put up a sign. We cater to white trade only. So you didn't go in there. Do you remember seeing many of those signs is up and down 60 in the neighborhood Stover's before the war Portlands few blacks knew they weren't welcome newcomers had to be taught newcomers. And as always the children would go to some places and they would say things like We don't serve colored boys at the fountain. And so
we'd stay away from those kind of neighborhoods. As a youngster William Helier remembers riding bicycles with friends in Southeast Portland and it was a hot day and we stopped to get a lemon Coke. You probably remember the final Jeff cherry coke and coke and all that. And the guy wouldn't serve us. Said he did not serve. I think he said colored or Negroes or something at the fountain. We got that same thing. And there was an ice cream man delivering ice cream bars. He sort of heard this then when we came out he asked us come over to his truck so I heard that and hey you guys have had some action so you get some ice cream. This is during World War. We were so upset over that that late that evening we went back and busted this next door as it went. That was not a nice thing to do but we were so angry that in our neighborhood are they pretty close to us we were not allowed to sit at the counter. Hilliard learned early about prejudice. When I was a youngster in Portland I could not carry the Oregonian in my neighborhood
because I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood and they just told me the dealer out there said well we can't afford to have a colored boy delivering papers here you can sell them on the corners but you can't you can't deliver them. The irony of this story of course is that nearly 50 years later William Hill here is the Oregonian editor. In 1945 the Oregonian saw a serious problem that after the war as many as half of Portland's negro water workers were planning to stay on. In a city where there were few jobs and restricted housing. Portland's mayor Earl Riley had openly declared the city could absorb only a minimum of negroes without upsetting its regular life. With the war ending the Portland City Club predicted widespread unemployment for Negroes and tensions which are very likely to become explosive. Civil rights worker Russell Paignton remembers well the
bankers and the business people. Became very concerned. There were 25000 who were recruited here 25000 black people in Portland 15000 I'm giving general numbers 15000 men that left about 10000 here with no jobs available. Now what do you think the businessmen the bankers and the rest. Of what might happen with 10000 people. Without jobs or money. So. They wrote and called the Urban League in New York and asked for help. And Edwin C. Barry or Bill Barry as we know and was sent out here now nearly forgotten through the late 40s.
Bill Berry would be the leader of Oregon's civil rights movement. And so they had a meeting and he talked to them and they want to know how much will it cost us to get these people signed back on. Now as you know Bill Barry was really smart and I said Well. I'm going home. I'm not interested. He said if you're interested in integrating the community and saying these people got a job then I'm interested. Well I hash that around for a while and finally agreed to it. And that was the start of the Urban League in Portland. But they were called originally to get those people out of bilberries top priority for Portland's new Urban
League was jobs with peace the inevitable arrived a third to a half of the black population was unemployed who became after the war years known as the worst place on the Pacific Coast to be black and unemployed looking for work. Nathan Nickerson who would later lead the local Urban League himself speaks from personal experience. Nickerson with a degree in chemistry remembers finding work with a crew of black janitors in North Portland and became a member of a custodial crew. Some of whom are still alive only a couple now which had three master degrees blacks on it and myself and another pathway through all black where the white foreman with a high school education college degrees were useless for blacks in Portland until the summer of 1945. When I the back and that was why the first things on his agenda
was to discuss hiring black teachers. I was almost in at that time. To his surprise Robert Ford got the first teaching job in the Portland system. I applied for a job on this no paper. Knowing that I would get it later they sent me to find out not that it was a formality. An awful lot. They sent me out to you know Eliot's go to the. And I began feeling that well might be possible. After the success of the poor schools Portlands was ready to risk hiring black teachers but taking no chances it hired only a few and only in elementary schools. It would be years later when Robert Ford would also become the first black to teach in the Portland high schools. And remember Ellen law who came out of LeGrande to attend the University of Oregon. She advanced on Ford's
success. So we were the first two and I was the first female on the high school. And so he started in 1945 so it took him 10 years to get in high school. Took me 13 years to get hired. Period. And then 15 before I got into the high school which was 1956 in the late 40s a few job openings in the Portland school system were an exception. It was post office was hiring blacks too and so was the Bonneville Power Administration. All three were exceptions. When a grocery chain hired a black checker. It made the newspapers. In a story for the Oregonian in 1947. Writer Stuart Holbrook made a tour with Bill Berry interviewing employers who wouldn't hire blacks. There are reasons. Objections from both customers and white workers. The article described blacks who had found work in Portland as pioneers.
The pictures of exemplary black job holders included auto Rutherford a machine operator for diyan knitting mills. The article argued that the percentage of lazy worthless or vicious blacks was probably no greater than among the white population. Lazy worthless and vicious are an accurate reflection of many whites opinions of blacks in the 1940s. Bilberry condemned to state that on one hand called blacks shiftless but on the other hand wouldn't let them work as Belton Hamilton remembers. He would say if you arrange it so that they don't have any job then you're going to have to support them. Now you can because if they can't work and they have to live one way of living will be to steal and steal they're going to steal from you because you are the only one who got it so you'll be supporting them if they don't steal then they have to beg and they are going to be begging. If welfare charged with charity it's going to be your money
that you use to support them. So you have a choice either to give them an opportunity to work and support themselves or for you to support them. What Bilberry did for Portland in particular and for in a larger sense organ in general with the give whites an opportunity who did have good intentions who did want to see things through. He gave them an opportunity to work an effective ways to bring about change. Black people were out of work and many were isolated still living outside Portland advance port then on a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1948. Then port was gone. But. The crisis in the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to British Columbia from Idaho to the coast come reports of disaster. Worst of all from Oregon. Here flood waters of the swollen Columbia River broke through a
railroad fell around the city almost 19000 people lost their homes completely ruined. In one tragic car submerged houses smashed. People trapped by a muddy water. President Truman declared whole regions of the Pacific Northwest will be disaster areas as their series of flooding tragedy has reached its dramatic worst part. Now my parents are living well over here. And so my mother said about 4:30 or 4:45 you know you're hearing noise in cars and people moving about something we're passing by with suitcases and coals wrapped in sheets. And she said well we live upstairs we don't have to worry about anything. So she said she bought a quarter. She looked right down there and she saw several storage units floating this way. So she woke my dad up he's taking an afternoon snooze and she will say we have got to get out of here. My mother all of a sudden the kids will come running down Kottwitz be coming
from the west coming this way and set the dike is broken. Run run run. Now we hit the street. We just heard the word of mouth and everybody stopped moving and everything and we were moving pretty fast. My mother was telling everybody to get out. We come up and get up on the top. Of Denver street. And my mom. Kept saying Don't look back don't look back. And of course you know as a 13 year old you don't look back. And I look back. I never seen so much water. You know you just froze I just kept looking at those huge huge waves and these houses are riding on these waves and wants to it like a number I think I saw people on top of the roof they climb all the way to the top of the roof. You know.
I say don't be a big Christian. But the Lord knew what he was doing when he punched the hole in that down and floated van board because you had a most segregated society out and then blow and the flood. Those people had to come someplace. So they came on into the city and they're going to help buoy up our strength a bit of black strength. But in Portland there was what one black leader called a well organized plan long and planning to set aside the el-Banna district for Negroes albino and nowhere else. I think there was a feeling that the Portland really board members the key people on that pretty much were in agreement that this was a good place for blacks to go. They were Portland historian kimberwicke MacColl. They were prepared to move all the blacks out of that port and that's actually shuffled them into the nearest area which would be the North North Portland area or Northwest Portland area
northeast Portland area. And because there was a lot of run down real estate there and a lot of. And it was the prices were cheap. And they would do the least amount of damage to the areas where where prices or property values had the greatest potential. Article 34 of the code of ethics for Portland realtors pledged never to sell to members of any race or nationality whose presence would hurt property values. In 1949 a local realtor was accused of violating that ethical code. For selling this southeast Portland home to a Pullman car porter in his Cherokee Indian wife. The agent was found guilty of unethical conduct and expelled from the organization of professional realtors. Forgotten what year that law was taken off the books so the Orientals and blacks could buy property. However
a real estate agent could refuse to sell. We had one agent here Frank McGuire. He was notorious for that. But after the war days and we had all the black people here from board he found out he was losing money so he condescended to start selling houses down around albino in that area. They made all kinds of effort to confine black people to certain areas or certain streets and certain blocks within those streets across Greater Portland so-called covenants still hung property deeds today. The 55 year old deed to this house in Lagos wego is typical. It forbade Chinese Japanese or negros except that person said they said races may be employed as servants. Restrictions written for
Cedar Hills in 1946 declare only Caucasians shall use or occupy the properties except in the capacity of domestic servants chauffeurs or employees. Civil rights laws of superseded the covenants but they remain in the records a testament to the times when the houses were built. All this was done openly white realtors refused to sell the blacks white employers refused to hire them white restaurants refused to serve them and at the same time in the Portland Public Schools young blacks were being taught to fail. I remember when I was a sophomore at Lincoln High School we had a white teacher their English teacher by the name of what I can call a name which has been so many years ago Mr. Watson I never forget that name. What Mr. Watson. Oh we you know we studied about George Washington Carver
who was of course a scientist you know great scientists you know backside like scientists and in the course of the study in the book that we had to read. She got up one day and made it very clear to an entire class that George Washington Carver was a rare exception for a black person or as they would say then for a negro. And that we could not look to see this happening anytime soon with a with a black person or a Negro with a scientific mind excelling like that. And she I never shall forget she said this she said for the most part. Negroes are good at dancing and athletics. That is where they excel. And she looked right at me you know. And then as if to say you know that's what you ought to go after the season be an athlete or a dancer. Well you know and I was the only black kid in the class. But you know she will never know.
No one will never know what that did to me on the inside you say because every kid in the class turned and looked at me you know and I actually thought that she. I actually think that she thought she was doing a service to me I really believe she felt like she was saying to me something that would help me. You know don't waste your time trying to be a writer don't waste your time trying to be a scientist don't waste your time trying to be an author or a teacher or professor or or or a banker or businessman. You do well in athletics and you have rhythm you can dance. And this is where your people excel you know. And she named off a few athletes and a few entertainers you know. And you know so. But that was that was not the only incident like that but that was one of the most crushing that I experience whether it was it had to do it was basically kind of they didn't. They really didn't think much about it. A lot of these people were probably unaware of their prejudices. See that's the thing you see. It was so built into our society.
After the war there were black people in Portland and numbers that made people notice. Many had fought in the war were made good wages in wartime production. There are new expectations of how they would live and how they would be treated. Pre-war. Portman was never coming back. From a generation before as a young black woman. Catherine Bhogle couldn't find a job by the early 50s when Regina flowers were looking for work. Times had changed. And 92 when I got to high school I was hired on the elevator. At 11 and one of the other major departments. Yes. And in fact they had a lot of my friends. The first black behind the counter at Lipmann had been hired in 1951. Two years later Portlands leading department store hired its first black clerk Josiah Nunn was a graduate of Lewis and Clark College with a master's degree. And Frank brought him on as a part time clerk.
I met the general public everyday when I worked at Lebanon war. But we were told that basically blacks were not welcome in the temple up on tenth floor which was very exclusive. You know the tea room and we couldn't figure out why because the same food they serve to open the place up in these skills. What's that. It really was slap a little bit there. But anyway that was interesting but they didn't care. I took him up there. I took the old babes up there boy. Money rules. Now they are you know I took them up there and now we are allowed to take but never I never spoke out but because they backed us. We never have any problems you know. And I worked off and on there until my second child was born. You know the greatest turning point the biggest victory in the early years for blacks was to create those opportunities for white people to examine their own behavior. That's where the struggle began. And that's where that's where progress began. As long as they didn't have to
examine what was normal then it was not going to change but providing opportunities for whites and for the country at large to have to consciously focus on this reality and to examine it and make decisions about it. That's where the civil rights movement began. I think the war did all of a sudden there was a large increase in the number of non-whites especially blacks in the state of Oregon and specifically in Portland. And those people coming from the outside were not willing to take the status quo that they ran into when they came into this community. Whites too were changed by the war years and for us to compare the standards of the community with their own Mark Hatfield was a college student at Willamette University in Salem and Hatfield tells a story about a visit by singer actor and political activist Paul Robeson. Before I went into the war and this would have been a 1940 three 42 43 period Paul Robeson
was in recital in Salem and I had my fraternity asked my fraternity if we could invite him to dinner and we did. Before the concert he came we had a delightful visit with Paul robes. I remember that I was one of those who had been selected to help drive him back to Portland so he could find a room for the night. He couldn't stay in Salem. The capital city of Oregon he was not allowed to register in a local hotel. Now that was 42 43 and that just hit me like boom between the eyes. I couldn't believe that was happening in my state of Oregon. Five years after the war the change was coming not immediate not dramatic but under way in 1950 under reform Mary Dorothy McCullough leave the Portland City Council passed a public accommodations law banning discrimination at restaurants hotels and motels
immediately signatures were gathered on a referendum. The ordinance went to the voters and in November the city's public accommodations law was repealed at the polls. That was typical of the 50s. You had steps forward you had steps back and then you worked out that kind of direction that race relations would take through that very tumultuous process. So through the 50s Portland began to take steps that would indicate they wanted to get where they wanted to be in step with kind of the civil rights direction of the country in 1945 and the social workers. In art was listed. As the most interested in north of the Mason-Dixon line. Civil rights workers. Shelton Hill. But then if I come back and tell you that. In. 19 And day one. They were listed as the most improved city in the nation and race here. And that's just like blacks began
applying pressure at the legislature once a joke in Salem civil rights legislation was now being taken seriously ever since 1919 civil rights legislation has been put in the hopper except once every legislator had a bill and nobody got paid. It was all so-called volunteer. Take a trip to Salem. Find somebody with an automobile pile in and. Try the halls of the legislature try to call somebody but that didn't happen. If we hadn't had. If we hadn't had some good liberal white friends we could have done it myself. We were too few in number. But we had some good friends good friends. They're the ones we kept prodding prodding. They helped dispute the bill. In 1949 the bill was a fair employment practices act and
all white. Oregon Legislature started the process that would outlaw discrimination in hiring. It was the first in a series of new civil rights laws in Oregon. There was a there was a new leadership to see this in the legislature at this point. I think there were a number of young legislators who like Alf Corbett was one for example held by people in March half of it like I do. It was a bipartisan effort essentially who where he felt strongly I give Mark a lot of credit. It was a young Mark Hatfield who carried Oregon's first public accommodations bill the passage in the house in 1953. The new law finally opened hotels motels and restaurants to minorities. Hatfield remembers the doors to the house opening after that vote. Well when those doors opened. And there was that mass smiling joyful African-Americans crying I mean everybody cried. I
mean they came pouring into that. They surrounded our desks. We hugged kissed. People were weeping you know weeping tears of joy. Nobody was self-conscious about it. But I only say that because it it goes back to the time we were in battle that that kind of driving spirit that contagious spirit of those folk who kept us infected on it and they paid off important role played an important role. Their numbers worked great. Perhaps if you would say politically speaking they were a great influence but they were powerful powerful motivators. In 1957 in 1959 the state legislature followed up with bills attacking discrimination in housing. Housing. Accommodations. Jobs. All of the new laws reflected a recognition of an old wrong. Black people had been held back by
barriers imposed by whites. For life to get better for blacks in Oregon. We whites had to change. And this was the beginning. But it took a long time and a long time coming. We had some funerals. That's the best solution. Some of the old guard who let them die. They had to be talking about some of the the white people who simply would not accept black. No no no. That was the problem as I see. You have to have funerals to solve some problems. It's an odd thing. Even. At that time there were people who could see beyond the skin color and it was to those people that I would give credit in my life who looked beyond that and open their eyes open their hearts and open their homes the stories you told
me if I'm reading you right you don't. You're not angry. No I'm not angry. I regret the time loss and the effort that was put in. Just trying to survive but I'd say I'm not angry because I felt that I still got a lot out of my experiences in terms of education and the associations I had. There's a self-confidence there's a there's just kind of an aura of accomplishment that these older black people have. And I think as well these are certainly with hard earned but they've endured thing that most people could not have endured and that that gives you a feeling of accomplishment a feeling of contentment to a degree they can look back at American history and see conditions and circumstances that simply boggle the modern mind and they live through those time periods and they survive to go time periods and they created a reality for the next generation that was going to be very
drastically different. And I think that they you know they sense that and they understand that and they they know within their minds and within their within their hearts. That what they've accomplished has been something very remarkable. I have a little problem with my two grandsons are growing practically grown. They take everything for granted. You know go where you walk when you walk away where you are. I guess the thing I've always been that way the two of us been many a bitter tear getting to this point. So it sinks in. Some of it doesn't. Typically that age because. We have made progress we've made progress here in this to for we have made it appropriate. So
I can say I can stand in your way open up. When we have problems but we still hear
Local Color
Producing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Contributing Organization
Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, Oregon)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
This documentary film chronicles the little known history of civil rights advocates in the state of Oregon. Many of them are senior citizens dying out rapidly; the few remaining offer interviews to broadcast journalist Jon Tuttle hoping to tell their story.
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Local Communities
Race and Ethnicity
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Editor: Gosson, Steve
Executive Producer: Lindsay, John
Host: Tuttle, Jon
Producing Organization: Oregon Public Broadcasting
Reporter: Tuttle, Jon
Writer: Tuttle, Jon
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB)
Identifier: 113258.0 (Unique ID)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Original
Duration: 00:57:45:00
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: 90110dct-arch (Peabody Object Identifier)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 0:57:36
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Chicago: “Local Color,” 1990-10-07, Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 30, 2023,
MLA: “Local Color.” 1990-10-07. Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Local Color. Boston, MA: Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from