A Peculiar Paradise: What’s in a Name?

How can a book published in 2022 both honor the importance of a work created more than 40 years ago, and acknowledge currently accepted terminology? In 1980, the title of Elizabeth McLagan’s book, A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940, was not considered inappropriate. Today readers may justifiably object to the use of the word “Blacks” to refer to the collective Black community.

Oregon Black Pioneers’ own exhibits have used the term “Blacks” occasionally, though we have eliminated the term from online versions of these exhibits and no longer use it in our publications. However, Oregon Black Pioneers is releasing A Peculiar Paradise this fall with the original text and title.

“In this second edition we’ve included a Note on Terminology which states, “The author occasionally uses antiquated racial terminology which today’s readers may find offensive. However, with the exception of corrections to spelling errors, the original text has been preserved exactly as written in order to maintain this historical integrity of this important work,”” says Zachary Stocks, OBP’s Executive Director. Despite its sometimes dated terminology, A Peculiar Paradise remains a landmark book which has added greatly to the scholarship of Black Oregonians.

While we have maintained the title and text as written in 1980, this 2022 republication features a new foreword by OBP Emeritus Board Member Gwen Carr, a new afterword by the author, Elizabeth McLagan, an expanded reading list, new photos, and additional scholarly details included throughout the book as footnotes.

A Peculiar Paradise is published by OSU Press and can be purchased here: osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/peculiar-paradise