First Advisor

Catherine McNeur

Date of Award

Spring 6-18-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

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






African Americans -- Oregon -- Portland -- History -- 20th century, Public spaces -- Political aspects -- Oregon -- Portland, Urban parks -- Political aspects -- Oregon -- Portland




Although we often take their existence for granted, public parks are imperative for the vitality of a functioning democratic society. Parks are more than just sites for recreation–an important arena for community building in its own right; occupying public space is an inherently political act that takes on new dimensions in resistance movements. This project explores the role that public space played in the history of Black community organizing and resistance in Portland. Irving Park is a sixteen acre park in the heart of the Albina district, Portland’s historic African American neighborhood. Though the area is now heavily gentrified, from the sixties to the eighties, Albina was home to 4 in 5 Black Portlanders. Irving Park provided Albina residents with an open gathering space for a range of interrelated and concurrent uses, from rebellion to mutual aid, cultural celebration to education, and of course, recreation. Using archival evidence from the City of Portland Archives, the Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland State University’s Rutherford Family Collection of Historic Black Newspapers of Portland, and The Oregonian, I argue that Black Portlanders’ communal use of Irving Park represented a radical act of resistance and reclamation in an intensely segregated urban environment.


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Podcast episodes to accompany this thesis may be found at:

Persistent Identifier