New “Black in Oregon” Exhibition on Display at Benton County Historical Society

Oregon Black Pioneers is excited to kick off 2021 with the debut of a new and improved version of its exhibition “Black in Oregon: 1840 – 1870” at Benton County History Museum in Philomath. The exhibition was set to open on Jan. 15th, but COVID-19 restrictions have closed the museum until county health limits allow for in person gathering in museums to resume. Black in Oregon was last on display this summer at Broadway Coffeehouse in Salem.

“Black in Oregon , 1840-1870” was originally developed by the Oregon State Archives in 2018 in collaboration with Oregon Black Pioneers. When the exhibition was deinstalled from the State Archives building, the agency transferred ownership of the show to OBP. The original panels for the show were printed on foam core, a light but less durable material that dented easily. As well, the small size of each panel made reading them difficult for some viewers.


This past winter, OBP set out to improve the exhibition to make it more appealing as a travelingexhibition for museums to rent. The new panels are larger, more durable, and consistent in their design. The exhibition at Benton County History Museum will be the first chance viewers have to see the full, improved panels.

This exhibition offers a glimpse into the experiences of some of the first Blacks to settle in Oregon, many of whom came as enslaved persons. Despite legal exclusions and discrimination, these individuals built prosperous lives for themselves and their families and contributed greatly to some of Oregon’s first permanent communities.

For more information about  BCHS’s reopening plans and visiting the exhibition, please visit the website of Benton County Historical Society. The online version of Black in Oregon can be viewed at the Oregon State Archives website.



Oregon Black Pioneers was founded in 1993. Its mission is to research, recognize, and commemorate the culture and heritage of African Americans in the State of Oregon. Its vision is to be the premier resource for information about Oregon’s African American culture and heritage. For more information please contact