OHQ’s White Supremacy and Resistance Special Issue: Now a Free Resource for Oregon

February 16, 2021

By Erin Brasell

In this draft of Section 31 of the Bill of Rights in the 1857 Oregon Constitution, held in the OHS Research Library’s Oregon Constitutional Convention Records, 1857–1859 collection, framers outlined property rights of non-citizens. After some debate, delegates moved to modify “foreigners” with the word “White,” reassuring inhospitality to non-White immigrants. Oregon voters repealed this article in 1970. OHS Research Library, Mss1227, box 1, folder 1, 006.

It has been a little over a year since the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) published the Winter 2019 “White Supremacy & Resistance” special issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly (OHQ). The issue has been one of OHQ’s most popular in its over 120-year existence. Within six weeks, the initial inventory was almost depleted, prompting a reprint in March 2020 that recently was itself sold out — a testament to the topic’s ongoing relevance.

Black and white newspaper advertisement with decorative border and writing in bold letters stating “white help only” and guaranteeing that “no Chinaman has prepared your food.”
This advertisement, published in 1904 in the “La Grande Observer,” echoes anti-Chinese sentiments during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The owners of Pap’s Chop House revealed in this advertisement for “White help only” that racism and ethnocentrism were acceptable to newspaper readers. This newspaper clipping is included in one of nine primary-document interludes that follow each article in the Winter 2019 special issue and illustrate the effects of White supremacy throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The issue’s concept was born in June 2017, two weeks after the violent murders on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon, and the resulting authoritative scholarship endures today as the nation continues to process and understand the January 6, 2021, violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The insurrectionists, many belonging to extremist groups rooted in White supremacy, carried with them potent symbols of racism and used violence in an attempt to overturn a legitimate democratic election. While this extremist violence is one consequence of the ideology of White supremacy, those structures also underpin American institutions and organizing systems — sometimes in imperceptible ways. In her “Note from the Editors,” in the Winter 2019 issue, Dr. Carmen Thompson explains this best:

White supremacy is not just the Ku Klux Klan donning robes or burning crosses, but it can be. It is not just an individual act of racial discrimination, although it can be that, too. White supremacy is a collective set of codes, spoken and unspoken, explicit and implied, that society enforces through its institutions, governments, and legal structures in order to keep those deemed as White on top and every other racial group below them — with specific emphasis, in the United States, on keeping Black people at the bottom.

White supremacy is also dangerous to people’s health and wellbeing. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Oregon and the nation have shouldered a disproportionate burden during the COVID-19 global pandemic, including illness and death, loss of housing, and economic hardship. The Winter 2019 special issue provides a scholarly exploration of how that system is connected to people, places, and events in Oregon’s history.

On February 14, 2021, Oregon commemorated becoming a part of the United States 162 years ago, and OHS couldn’t think of a better gift to the state than making this resource available for free. Readers can now download each of the twelve articles published in the “White Supremacy & Resistance” special issue, a PDF of the issue as a whole, and the primary-document interludes that follow each of the articles and illustrate the effects of White supremacy throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. You can access all these resources at ohs.org/ohqresistance. The OHQ staff is also excited to work with teachers who are bringing this material into their classrooms.

Black and white photograph showing a worn fence in foreground and a Black man in the background wearing overalls and holding a cane. He stands on a side porch of a house. OHS Research Library, bb005803.
An African American man, a pensioner of less than $2,000 a year, stands on his porch in the Albina neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Long before the gentrification of the twenty-first century, Portland’s Black property owners faced displacement from public and private developments such as the Memorial Coliseum, Legacy Emanuel Hospital expansion, and other urban renewal projects. OHS Research Library, bb005803.

The Winter 2019 special issue was designed as a complete volume, and we believe it is best read cover to cover. As such, OHS has also ordered a second reprint of 500 copies, which will be available for purchase in the OHS Museum Store by the end of February 2021. You can reserve a print copy by sending an email to museumstore@ohs.org. The special issue costs $15 or $13.50 for OHS members, and all proceeds from sales in the OHS Museum Store directly support our mission.

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