Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church is a revered institution that has consistently served as a hub of political, civic, & spiritual life in Portland’s African-American community since its inception. Started as the First Baptist Church of Burton Homes in 1944 Vancouver, Washington, most of the early congregants were African-Americans from the South who migrated to the Pacific Northwest seeking employment in the defense industry during World War II. The church moved twice after V-Day with the closing of the eponymous Burton Homes & Bagley Downs housing projects, prompting a move to segregated Portland’s burgeoning Black enclave in the Albina neighborhood in 1946. During this period the congregation also changed leadership with the appointment of O.B. Williams as pastor, a title he would hold for almost fifty years. After briefly occupying the Prince’s Hall Masonic Temple at 116 NE Russell, the congregation purchased & rehabilitated a dilapidated building at 1914 N. Vancouver in 1947 (subsequently this property was razed for the construction of I-5). The new home was also accompanied by a new name, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. In the aftermath of the Vanport flood in 1948, many displaced residents from that housing project’s Community Baptist Church joined Vancouver Avenue. As more African Americans were forced to settle in Albina, Reverend Williams was pushed to seek another space just a few years later. The shrinking Central Methodist Church, a congregation of mostly northern European immigrants, sold their building at 3138 N. Vancouver to O.B. Williams’ expanding flock. The new occupants marched down the street to their new home on Palm Sunday of 1951 & have continued to hold services at the space since. Congregation historian Raymond Burell spearheaded a successful effort to have this building placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 & it continues to function as a place of worship, civil rights landmark, & spiritual home for many Black Portlanders. This photo shows a group of children and adults posing in front of the Vancouver Avenue Baptist Church bus during a picnic in 1964. Learn more about the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church picnic from the Oregon Historical Society https://digitalcollections.ohs.org/vancouver-avenue-first-baptist-church-picnic
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In copyright. Used by permission of the copyright holder, who retains publication rights thereto. Use of resources from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any reproduction use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Photographs Dept., Oregon Historical Society.
- Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church collection, 1940-2015.; Coll 189; box 1, folder 11; Lib. Acc. 26598