Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors






African Americans -- History -- Study and teaching -- Oregon -- Portland, Blacks -- History -- Study and teaching -- Oregon -- Portland, Multicultural education -- Oregon – Portland, Portland Public Schools (Or) -- Curricula, Educational equalization, School integration, Educational change




The African-American Baseline Essays are a set of culturally specific curricular documents published in 1987 by the Portland Public Schools (PPS) to enhance existing curriculum with a multicultural perspective for the benefit of all students. These documents were the result of efforts on the part of Portland's Black community in the late 1970s and 1980s to demand an end to de facto segregation in the district, and to correct racial bias present in the district's curriculum. From the 1960s onward, a train of proposals were at the center of the debate over how to meet the requirements of the Brown v Board of Education decision in Portland- forced busing of black students out of neighborhood schools, optional busing of white students in, and the establishment of new schools and/or new school boundaries, for example. But what seem to be more critical and lasting contributions from this era are not school or district boundaries, new buildings, or busing policies, but an initial set of documents designed to be the first fruits of a sweeping curricular overhaul.

This thesis looks at the African American Baseline Essays as the result of a series of struggles among local and national actors to redress inequity in the American educational system. It also recasts the popular and media-driven stigma attached to "multiculturalism" in the 1980s and 1990s with a more nuanced intellectual and political story. The political narrative connects efforts to resist racism and oppression in Portland, Oregon with the global struggle for liberation represented by the articulation of Africa in the voices of Africans and African Americans. Intellectually, this thesis narrates a challenge to the epistemological hegemony of "Western" thought and ways of knowing embodied in the community-based demand for quality education and the subsequent production of the Baseline Essays.


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