23 March, 2015

How Oregon's Second Largest City Vanished in a Day | History | Smithsonian

How Oregon's Second Largest City Vanished in a Day | History | Smithsonian:

Portland's whiteness is often treated more as joke than a blemish on its reputation, but its lack of diversity (in a city of some 600,000 residents, just 6 percent are black*) stems from its racist history, of
which Vanport is an integral chapter. When Oregon was admitted to the
United States in 1859, it was the only state whose state constitution
explicitly forbade black people from living, working or owning property
within its borders. Until 1926, it was illegal for black people to even
move into the state. Its lack of diversity fed a vicious cycle: whites
looking to escape the South after the end of the Civil War flocked to
Oregon, which billed itself as a sort of pristine utopia, where land was
plentiful and diversity was scarce. In the early 1900s, Oregon was a
hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity, boasting over 14,000 members (9,000 of
whom lived in Portland). The Klan's influence could be felt everywhere,
from business to politics—the Klan was even successful in ousting a
sitting governor in favor of a governor more of its choosing. It
was commonplace for high-ranking members of local and statewide
politics to meet with Klan members, who would advise them in matters of
public policy.