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Emanuel Hospital’s patient capacity was expanded by a 1970s urban renewal project. Clearing land for the project displaced a significant number of Portland’s Albina neighborhood residents, including many African Americans.
A significant number of African Americans migrated to Portland during World War II due to the availability of jobs in the shipyards. Housing was scarce for both African Americans and Anglos. After the war ended, approximately 10,000 of the 20,000-25,000 African Americans who migrated during the war remained in Portland. The majority of these families lived in the area known as Vanport—a temporary settlement for war workers and their families. The housing there was not meant to be permanent but it became so for many African American families. In 1948 the Columbia River flooded and the dike protecting Vanport broke. Nearly 17,000 people were left homeless as a result of the flood, and those left homeless were disproportionately African American.
After the flood many African Americans moved to the area that is now known as the Rose Quarter. This area was located between the downtown and the Eastside both of which were in the process of being developed. In November 1956 the decision was made to build a sports coliseum in the Rose Quarter. The city planning commission claimed that housing in the area was substandard. This was just one of several projects that forced many African Americans in the area to move once again
The African American community protested the expansion of Emanuel because they were frustrated at continually being forced to move to make way for development. Successive postwar construction projects in the Albina neighborhood—the Memorial Coliseum in the 1950s, Interstate 5 in the 1960s, and the Emanuel Hospital expansion in the 1970s—resulted in a steady migration northward.
Written by Tania Hyatt-Evenson, Sarah Griffith, © Oregon Historical Society, 2002.