The Provisional Government of Oregon, which was established by settlers in the 1840s, passed Oregon’s first racial exclusion laws. These laws barred Black people from living here, and were part of a climate of intolerance that kept the state’s Black population small. However, during the 1890s, a number of African Americans moved to Portland to work in the hotel and railroad industries, and established the city’s first sizable Black neighborhood, in Northwest Portland.
Over time, Portland's Black community expanded, and its geographical center shifted multiple times, moving to the east and north, largely due to racial discrimination and public policies that pushed African Americans to less desirable neighborhoods. When the city changed and those neighborhoods began to be seen as more desirable, Black residents were again pushed out, by urban renewal, private development, rising housing costs and gentrification. This cycle is ongoing today.
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