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Interview with Dennis Payne by Jasse Chimuku on February 23, 2010, in Portland, Oregon.

Dennis discusses his time at Portland State University almost entirely. He gives a detailed description of his family genealogy, including the migration through Montana of his father and mother. The story of his grandparents living in Wyoming and ultimately in Harding, Montana is rich with detail of Black family life in the area during the early twentieth century.

The bulk of the interview highlights the struggle of Black students while he attended college. The Black Power movement on a nationwide basis was in full swing at the time and Payne details the formation and politics of the PSU Black Student Union. He also gives a detailed description of the negotiations on campus to form a Black Studies program. He describes this process including names of key players as well as the BSU demanding the right to review the proposed programs. The interview ends abruptly at this point, and no follow up questions were asked.


Dennis G. Payne (b. 1948) was a member of the Portland State University Black Student Union in 1968 and was involved with the creation of the PSU Black Studies program.

He was born in Hubbard, Oregon, and was raised in Portland. He attended Eliot Grade School, which was opened in northeast Portland in 1954 for Black students living in the Steel and Broadway Bridge areas. Today, these neighborhoods contain the Rose Quarter, Memorial Coliseum, and the Portland Public Schools building.

Payne served in student government while at Benson High School in the 1960s as freshman class vice-president and as president of his sophomore, junior, and senior classes. He also played basketball and football and ran track.

In the fall of 1967, Payne enrolled at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. The Black Power movement and the fight for civil rights arrived on Oregon college campuses during the mid-sixties and Payne was one of only three Black students on the Willamette campus. Conflict on campus encouraged Payne to return to Portland, where he enrolled at Portland Community College in the winter of 1968 and transferred to Portland State University in the fall. There he joined the newly founded Black Student Union and continued his active efforts “to make meaningful changes [and] address issues affecting the Black community.”

After graduating from PSU in 1972, Dennis Payne was involved with the Urban League of Portland and the Black United Front. The City of Portland entered into an agreement for street crime prevention activities on April 30, 1987 with Dennis G. Payne.

[From a biographical essay by Mike Dicianna]


For more information on Dennis Payne please see the Black United Front Oral History digital exhibit.

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