First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Term of Graduation

Spring 1997

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Portland Public Schools (Or.) -- Curricula, Multicultural education -- Study and teaching -- Oregon -- Portland, African American children -- Education -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (135 pages)


This thesis chronicles the controversy surrounding the implementation of the multicultural education curriculum in the public schools of Portland, Oregon between 1983 and 1992. It surveys and discusses the germane events, processes, procedures, and perceptions which led up to, accompanied, and emerged from the city's adoption of the African-American Baseline Essays. This work seeks to place the Portland experiment in an historical context by revealing its contribution to the study of United States social/cultural history and race relations. This story of community empowerment is tied to long-standing conflicts and questions surrounding the nature of multicultural education, the role of public schools in America, and the larger theme of the place of race in the continual re-structuring of the American identity.

The conflict enveloping the creation of the District's African-American Baseline Essays is analyzed through primary materials furnished by the Portland Public Schools' Archives, including articles within the Multicultural/Multiethnic Office. Besides newspaper items, national periodicals, and monographs, conversations between the author and anonymous individuals intimately involved with the controversy proved invaluable.

As public education has historically been a forum upon which unresolved conflicts have played themselves out, the controversy over multicultural education in the Portland Public Schools made a vital and potentially useful contribution. The District's African-American Baseline Essays and the heated response which followed had a significant impact on multicultural education and the larger issues of ethnic and race relations and American identity. While Americans have witnessed painstaking efforts to expand the understanding of the varied tapestry of their culture over the past twenty-five years, the controversy over the Portland Public Schools' African-American Baseline Essays played a role in the nation's historic struggle to seek a coherent identity among an increasingly diverse community.


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