I happened on the wondrous work above at the Oregon Convention Center the end of January 2022. It inspired me to publish a post for Black History month, though I wasn't sure I had enough content. Over the years my travels have touched on black lives and experiences a bit, and at last I thought I might have enough for a short post.
Next to the panel above was a labeled explanation of who and what is depicted:
1. the 25th Infantry Brigade Black Bicycle Corps
2. Beatrice Cannady, 1st black woman to practice law in OR
3. Golden West Hotel, one of the first black-owned hotels in OR
4. Richard Bogle, one of the first successful black businessmen in the NW
5. America Waldo Bogle, wife of Richard Bogle, civic leader
6. escape from slavery to the west
7. Buffalo Soldiers
8. freed slaves headed west
9-10. George Washington, founder of Centralia WA
11. Sacajawea, Lewis & Clark Expedition
12-13. Lewis & Clark
14. York, member Lewis & Clark Expedition
15. Mary Fields, Pony Express rider, stagecoach driver
16. James Becksourth, mountain man, scout, war chief of the Crow
17. slavery & plantation life
18. pioneer caravans of black settlers 1840s-1850s
19. Moses "Black" Harris, mountain man, trapper, trader, guide
20. cattle drive up the Chisholm trail (at one point 2/5 of cowboys were black)
21. Bill Picket, international rodeo star, mentor to Will Rogers
22. "Peerless" Jesse Stahl, once the best wild horse rider in the west
23. black homesteaders had to do so illegally in OR until 1926 (not allowed to own land)
I have been gathering photos and info for a "Sacajawea Trail" post for a couple years or so. Since York was on that same journey, I thought I'd use some of those to show something of what that expedition might have been like for him. A couple of interesting points were that both York and Sacajawea were invited to participate in giving their input about where to spend the winter on the Pacific Coast, and neither of them received any compensation at the end of their journey (as all the others did). No doubt the assumption was that paying Sacajawea's husband recompensed her as well, but that doesn't do for York. Here is an interesting, and I think even-handed treatment of York, a 2010 half-hour documentary by Oregon Public Broadcasting:
The photo on the left above is from a presentation at Fort Vancouver WA. Naturally, I thought it not appropriate to appropriate all his visuals. I don't have as many photos for the next phase of black history in the Pacific Northwest, but the following links show and tell something about the black experience in the western US during the 1800s.
“I am also entitled to be recognized: The Life and Journey of Moses Williams”
Lecture at Fort Vancouver WA, Feb 29, 2020; see
"Black Abolitionists and Mercantile Frontiers: A. H. Francis and His Circle, 1835–1864"
Oregon State Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205, across from the Portland Art Museum
"The Remarkable Story of George Washington Bush, The Free Black Man Who Pioneered the Pacific Northwest” by Kaleena Fraga
"5 Stops on Your Oregon Coast Black History Road Trip” by Zachary Stocks of Oregon Black Pioneers
"Inequity: A Summary of Discrimination in Oregon and the South Coast” Coos History Museum 1st Tues Talk—July 15, 2020 . . . a panel discussion. “Black Americans and Oregon” by Taylor Stewart starts at about 26 min
Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St, Vancouver, WA 98660
April of 2022 we finally made it to the Clark County Historical Museum. I was extremely gratified to find along the front sidewalk a colorful and illustrated timeline of Black History for the county, which made it at the same time more local and personal, and was perhaps to some extent a mirror of the wider story of Blacks in America. Photos above.
After having donated most of my children's books to a good cause, I haven't resisted starting to collect more. I love kids' books. Through books we can travel along others' life journeys, their lives enrich our own, and through them our aspirations can take wings. So, too, many good movies have been made about black people's experiences and about black heroes. One incident that caught my attention from Portland's history is the Vanport Flood of 1948. Following are some of many links:
“Vanport Flood: Oregon’s Second Largest City that Vanished in a Day” by Tyler Willford, includes a 1 hr videoArticle by Michael N. McGregorArticle with photosArticle with photos “Vanport Flood begins on Columbia River on May 30, 1948” by Jennifer Ott1.5 page pdf “The Vanport Flood” by Michael McGregor
I wanted to learn more about and experience a Kwanzaa celebration. In 2019 I found that there's an annual Kwanzaa celebration at the Multnomah County Library--North Portland on Killingsworth and Commercial Ave, so I betook myself to participate. Not all blacks celebrate Kwanzaa, of course, but I think it speaks to the basic principles and values of the black community. Above are some photos from that. Lots of specialty restaurants and food carts are in the area--some African or Caribbean. The Cascade campus of Portland Community College is across the street, which seems to focus a great deal on black history in the US.
Portland Art Museum--1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205
We were so crushed for time that we didn't get to see everything Feb 2022, but hopefully there will be another chance with more time. Youth 17 and under are free. I would figure a half day. Above are some of the works by black artists that were on display when we were there. Below are links to more black artists I didn't get to see in person.
Oregon Historical Society Museum--1200 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205
Across the way from the Portland Art Museum is the Oregon Historical Society, including a museum. You can pay for street parking or nearby pay-to-park lots. Their permanent collection is on the third floor. You can also find online resources at their website:
A search for “black history” on their website produced 1124 items, perhaps some more useful than others.
More links about blacks in the Pacific Northwest
A Timeline of Black History in the Pacific Northwest
I've been in a wheelchair for 30+ years. It poses some challenges for traveling. Maybe others can benefit from my experiences.