Oregon Black Pioneers is proud to announce the launch of its second virtual exhibition, Racing to Change: The Eugene Story. This exhibition is a co-production of OBP and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon. The Eugene Story is a companion to OBP’s 2018 exhibition Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Right Years (also available to explore online) which focused primarily on events in Portland. Both exhibitions reveal the largely unrecognized participation of Black Oregonians during the nationwide movement for African American civil rights between the 1950s and 1980s.
Members of Eugene’s African American community, along with students and staff at the University of Oregon, approached Oregon Black Pioneers about expanding the story almost immediately after the original Racing to Change was deinstalled at Oregon Historical Society. The project grew quickly from there, as the Museum of Natural and Cultural History began to compile oral histories, objects, and photos which represented the overlooked achievements of Eugene’s civil rights activists. The Eugene Story begins by offering important historical context about the city’s first Black residents, who were forced to live in a segregated shanty under the omnipresent watch of local Klansmen. Despite these hardships, a resilient Black community emerged during the civil rights era, anchored by Black-owned businesses, a growing campus activist scene, the first Oregon chapter of the Black Panthers, and inspiring local leaders.
This month, Oregon Black Pioneers and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History were awarded an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award by Oregon Heritage for The Eugene Story.
This project offered OBP the chance to grow its own familiarity with Eugene’s African American history. Although the city is Oregon’s third largest, the state’s Black population is disproportionately concentrated in Portland. Because of this, many important figures and moments in Oregon’s African American experience have been overlooked, even by groups like OBP. We hope to change that. The Eugene Story helped forge new connections with individuals and organizations that have interpreted Eugene’s Black history for years, such as I TOO AM EUGENE and the Mims House.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.