This page contains a collection of lectures and presentations given at Portland State by historians and sponsored by the Friends of History.
The Friends of History are a group of individuals interested in history who believe that the Department of History at Portland State University offers resources worthy of community attention and support. The FOH regularly sponsor lectures from visiting professors and experts in historical fields. These events are free and open to the public.
In an age increasingly dependent on technology, the FOH share a conviction that the disciplines inherent in historical analysis are vital not only to the preservation of the humanities, but to all sound thinking.
The Friends of History promote excellence in the teaching and study of history within the University and strive to increase awareness of this resource in the Portland metropolitan area.
For more information about the FOH and how to join, please visit the PSU Department of History.
"Slavery Worse Than Existed in the Sunny South": The Problem of Japanese Labor in Progressive America
Drawn from his current book project that examines the history of the tension between nativism and demand for foreign labor in the United States, Hidetaka Hirota analyzes the problem of Japanese migrant labor in the American West at the turn of the twentieth century.
This lecture focuses on three particular issues related to Japanese labor immigration during this period: how the patterns of Japanese migration shaped Americans’ view of Japanese labor as a form of slave labor; how American and Japanese labor contractors in the West evaded federal laws to regulate labor immigration, often in transnational ways; and how such a subversive practice affected the development of US immigration policy.
Hirota discusses how the debate over Japanese labor contributed to the emergence of a national immigration regime in the United States in the early twentieth century.
Ghosts of Gold Mountain: Chinese Building the Transcontinental Railroad
Gordon H. Chang
Although Chinese workers constituted 90% of the labor force on the western portion of the transcontinental railroad line and have been credited with carrying the burden of its construction, they have faded into the shadows of history over time. Professor Chang's talk speaks to their historical neglect and shares insights into their experience gained from a decade of research and the publication of his book, Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad (2019).
The Rise and Fall of Classical Thebes and its Sacred Band
The huge role played by Thebes in shaping 4th-century BC Greece has been obscured by Xenophon, who hated the Thebans and did his best to exclude them from Hellenica, his history of his own times. Xenophon never spoke of the Theban Sacred Band, an infantry corps made up of male lovers, leading one recent scholar to claim they never existed.
Thanks to evidence from Plutarch and the excavation of the Band's mass grave—recorded in drawings only recently uncovered—we can restore some of the missing pieces of Thebes's brief term as superpower of Greece.
The Movements of Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age
In the period when early European empires were first being established across the globe, China did not project its power overseas, yet its global influence was strong, and admirers of its ancient medical wisdom could be found in many places. Chinese medical texts had long been influential in East Asia, but by the late 17th-century some were being translated for European audiences, too, becoming an important part of the growing interest in chinoiserie. There was even a momentary European fashion for the practices of acupuncture and moxibustion to relieve the pains of gout. By the 18th century, descriptions of how Chinese pulse-taking could reveal underlying sympathies among organs of the body were written into one of the most famous works of the Enlightenment: the Encyclopédie.
How and why were its long-distance travels generated, and by whom? In a period usually described as one of empire-building, other kinds of influence can be detected, too.
The Hello Girls: World War One and America's First Women Soldiers
In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps shipped 233 women to embattled France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, demanded female "wire experts" when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with frontline troops. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse.
While suffragists picketed the White House and Woodrow Wilson fought a segregationist Congress to give women of all races the vote, these courageous young soldiers swore the army oath and served their nation under fire. They sailed home as heroes—until Congress decided they never existed.
Blood and Soil: Real Estate and Racism in Modern American History
Nathan D.B. Connolly
This presentation explores the braided history of popular sovereignty and property rights to revise fundamentally how we think about residential segregation and the durability of Jim Crow's political culture.
Connolly asserts that modern liberalism, suburbanization, and multiculturalism all find shared roots in the "common sense" of segregationist governance. And, he maintains, any effort to finally turn the page on white supremacy in America must grapple with the economic and cultural benefits Jim Crow-era city-building put (and kept) in place.