First Advisor

Katrine Barber

Date of Publication

Summer 8-12-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






African Americans -- Civil rights -- Oregon -- Portland -- History -- 20th century, Portland (Or.) -- Social conditions -- History -- 20th century, Social movements -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century, Civil rights -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 130 pages)


Generally, Oregon historians begin Portland Civil Rights history with the development of Vanport and move quickly through the passage of the state's public accommodations law before addressing the 1960s and 70s. Although these eras are ripe with sources and contentious experiences, 1945 to 1953 provide a complex struggle for civil rights in Portland, Oregon. This time period demonstrates the rise of local leaders, wartime racial tensions, and organizational efforts used to combat inequality. 1945 marked a watershed moment in Portland Civil Rights history exhibiting intergroup collaboration and interracial cooperation converging to eventually provide needed legislation. Although discrimination continued after 1953, the era between 1945 and 1953 provided an era of change upon which subsequent movements in Portland were based. My thesis uses material from various collections to piece together the early struggle for civil rights in Portland, and more broadly, Oregon. These documents show that the local struggle started before the classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement, usually defined as Brown v. Board of Education to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By focusing on the classical phase of civil rights, historians miss the building of a strong foundation for Portland's Civil Rights history. My research proves the existing nuances of the fight for equality by looking at local movements rather than the national struggle. This study demonstrates the nuances by focusing on rising racial tension, the efforts to document them, and the strategies used to combat discrimination.


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