Oregon’s Black community has thrived despite a history of discrimination.
The earliest known person of African descent was Markus Lopeus, a black sailor who arrived at Tillamook Bay with merchant sea captain Robert Gray in 1788. Nearly 20 years later, York, an enslaved Black man, played a pivotal role in Lewis and Clark’s journey to the Pacific, hunting and gathering food, caring for the ill and building relationships with Native Americans.
World War II was the turning point in the African American experience in Oregon. Amidst Oregon’s Black exclusion laws, thousands of Black families migrated to Oregon to work in the state’s logging, ship building and farming industries. Today, despite being about two percent of the state’s population, Black residents have created indisputable chronicles of success, making strides in the state’s wine, outdoors, high-tech and food sectors.