Portland Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization that supports sustainable recreation and stewardship of Oregon’s natural resources. Birders and nature lovers across the state are well aware of the work Portland Audubon does to protect habitats, fight climate change, and advocate for equitable access to nature. And this week, members and followers of Portland Audubon were able to learn a bit more about Eastern Oregon’s Black history thanks to a unique collaboration with Oregon Black Pioneers.
In 2019, OBP worked with Harney Country residents to promote a crowdfunding campaign for a headstone to place at the unmarked graves of Black pioneers Martha and Walter Anderson. The Andersons, along with Walter’s brother Oscar, were Harney County residents at a time when Blacks were rarely found east of the Cascades. That racial disparity continues today, which was motivation for locals to help preserve the Anderson’s unique story. Thanks to support from the Roundhouse Foundation, the headstone campaign was successful and a marker will be erected in Spring of 2021.
Portland Audubon became involved as part of this work. Although based in Portland, the organization has staff and programs across Oregon, including in Harney County. Portland Audubon’s local field agent asked OBP to share the story of the Andersons, and a handful of other early Blacks who have called Eastern Oregon home, in their monthly newsletter The Warbler. The January 2021 issue features an article by OBP Executive Director Zachary Stocks which points out the history of racial exclusion that has made Black settlement in Eastern Oregon rare. Nonetheless, some enterprising Black individuals like the Andersons have made a life for themselves on the frontier.
OBP is proud to collaborate with other statewide nonprofits to highlight seldom-told stories where they are least expected. To learn more about Portland Audubon and their commitments to diversity and inclusion, please visit their website. You can read the OBP feature article in The Warbler here.
Oregon Black Pioneers is Oregon’s only historical society dedicated to preserving and presenting the experiences of African Americans statewide. Since 1993, our organization has illuminated the seldom-told history of people of African descent in Oregon. We are inspired by the tenacity of Black Oregonians who have faced discrimination and hardship to make a life for themselves here over the past 400 years. We honor their sacrifices by remembering their stories and by sharing them with the public.
Please consider making a donation to help us preserve and promote Oregon’s African American history and culture.