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Oregon Historical Quarterly



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Real covenants -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Minorities -- Segregation, Minorities -- Housing, Home ownership -- Oregon -- Portland -- History


In spring 2018, students in a Portland State University (PSU) course set out to understand how barriers to home ownership among families of color — as well as resistance to those barriers — have historical and continuing influence on our city. Over the previous year, a conversation with Ryan Curren of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, who had contacted PSU’s History Department for research assistance, gave rise to the crowdsourcing of deeds holding restrictive covenants, the PSU class described here, and a partnership with the Vanport Mosaic ( — a local nonprofit that works to amplify, honor, and preserve the silenced histories of the Pacific Northwest.

Fourteen PSU students in a public history class (eleven from the Urban Honors College, three undergraduate history students, and one history graduate student) collaborated with the City of Portland and Vanport Mosaic to document residential segregation in Portland. We sought to make visible the invisible walls constructed through racially restrictive covenants by collecting evidence in the form of deeds and then by sharing our findings with the public.


This article has been collaboratively written by the course instructor, a community partner, and three students in the course, in keeping with the collaborative structure of the project.

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