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The New Century

Jackson Sundown, PH244-153George Fletcher on bucking horse, PH244-206Chinese store in Pendleton, PH035-06041Lumber mill crew, PH035-08089Chinese protestersMiguel Morales

The 20th century saw many changes in how Oregon treated its minority workforce. A state constitutional measure banned African-Americans from owning property in Oregon in 1857; it was finally repealed in 1926, and voting rights provided in 1927. This opened the way for black businesspeople to settle more freely in the state. Shipyards attracted African-American workers during World War II, and many of them settled in the city of Vanport. By 1950, African-Americans made up 2.6% of the state’s population.

Chinese workers also gained greater freedoms in Oregon’s 20th century, although not without setbacks. The 1859 Oregon Constitutional measure that prevented Chinese residents from voting was repealed in 1927. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was repealed in 1943, allowing Chinese workers to live and work in the state. In 1946 the Oregon Constitutional measure preventing Chinese workers in Oregon from owning property or mining claims was repealed. Early Chinese professionals in Oregon included Seid Back, Jr. (1878-1933), the first Chinese lawyer admitted to the U.S. bar.

Japanese workers in Oregon suffered considerable racism during the early years of the 20th century, due in part to racial anxieties during wartime. In 1942 123,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were moved to “relocation camps” on the West Coast. Over 4,000 were from Oregon. Following their release at the end of the war, Japanese Americans continued to meet with racial prejudice and hostility, and many had difficulty resuming their previous lives and recovering their property.

The Oregon Senate passed the Oregon Fair Employment Practices Act in 1949, but non-white Oregonians continued to have to fight for equality in the workplace.

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Last revision: 8/8/05 by N. Helmer
Created by Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries