A new installation in Astoria tells the story of racial discrimination and segregation in Oregon’s oldest town. “Blocked Out: Race, Place, and the Making of Modern Astoria” opened in October at Clatsop County Heritage Museum as a new semi-permanent exhibit.
“Blocked Out” is not an Oregon Black Pioneers exhibit. It was written and produced by the staff of Clatsop County Historical Society for installation at the Heritage Museum. But OBP did play a small role by supplying stories and ideas for the Black historical context for this show, and by reviewing the exhibit text.
Astoria’s African American history dates back to 1805, when York traveled through the area as part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A handful of sailors and fur traders came in the decades that followed. By the late 1800s, a small number of Black residents called Astoria home, but they were targets of discriminations from coworkers and business owners who refused to treat them as equal citizens. In the 1920s, Oregon’s Klan grew to great heights in Astoria, threatening any Black residents who challenged white supremacy. Not even Black American servicemen were exempt from this treatment. In the 1940s, they were denied entry into local institutions, including the USO.
This racist legacy is not limited to Blacks in Astoria. Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Hawaiian, and Native American residents of Astoria have long experienced racial discrimination.
This history is difficult to hear, but so important to learn. Oregon Black Pioneers depends on museums across the state to tell its stories, since we do not have a museum of our own. Clatsop County Heritage Museum is one of several museums we have provided content or support to over the past two years –a trend we hope will continue! “Blocked Out” is available to view during regular museum hours in CCHS’ Founders Gallery upstairs.
Oregon Black Pioneers is an educational non-profit based in Salem. Since 1993, OBP has used research, exhibitions, and public programs to tell the seldom-told stories of people of African descent in Oregon. OBP’s vision is to be the premier source for information about Oregon’s African American heritage. For more information please visit oregonblackpioneers.org.