Published In

Oregon Humanities Magazine

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2013


Social justice, Equality, Anti-racism, Racial Equity, Race discrimination


A Conversation Project program reveals the stories and struggles of Oregon's African American communities. Walidah Imarisha led this Oregon Humanities sponsored Conversation Project program entitled, “Why Aren't There More Black People in Oregon? A Hidden History.” This article describes her efforts in organizing and leading the program, and includes details of Oregon's history, how the state was "was created as a white utopian homeland," subsequent policies such as the "lash law," and hundreds of years of activism that is ushering change. The Hidden History Timeline embedded in this article starts with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, covers the founding of the NAACP by black civil rights activist Beatrice Cannady, as well as the induction of Avel Louise Gordly - the first black woman to be elected to the Oregon Senate, and many events in between.

The goal with this program and timeline is "not just to recount all the horrific wrongs done to Black people and other people of color; it is to showcase communities of color as active agents in their destinies. The only reason a Black community exists in Oregon is because of determination, creativity, and community-building." -- Walidah Imarisha

About Oregon Humanities Conversation Projects:
Our goal is to connect people to ideas and to each other, not to push an agenda or arrive at consensus. By creating intentional spaces for conversation, people and groups explore why they think what they do, share stories with one another that build trust, and make stronger connections and commitments to the issues that affect their communities.

Conversation Projects events differ from lecture- or presentation-based community events. Rather than attending to learn from a presenter, participants are invited to engage with and talk with each other.


© 2021 Oregon Humanities. All Rights Reserved.
[Permission to reprint in PDXScholar.]


The Conversation Project is made possible thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Kinsman Foundation, NW Natural, and The Standard.

Walidah Imarisha is an educator, writer, organizer, and spoken word artist. She is the editor of two anthologies, including Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements and Another World is Possible, and the author of the poetry collection Scars/Stars. Oregon Humanities is grateful that over the past six years, she has led close to four thousand Oregonians in conversations about Oregon Black history, alternatives to incarceration, and the history of hip hop through the Conversation Project. We look forward to working with her in new ways in the future.

Persistent Identifier