Vanport and Black Genocide in Oregon
As an infant, I surmise that life was relatively simple for yours truly. Growing in conscious awareness, however, I quickly saw the difference between Black folk and White folk. And, as I survived the racist nature of Whites in Oregon, I gained firsthand insight into the ugliness of racism.
The Black community in Oregon was rich in culture, knowledge, wisdom, survival skills, watchfulness, and love. Our elders were so very gifted and – in spite of the horrors many were privy to and subjected to – those who survived maintained their humanity.
Life was not easy for Black people in a racist Oregon. The 1940s had brought a relatively high number of Black men and Black women and their families to the Oregon area. We had been recruited and encouraged to move to Oregon to work in the Shipyards. The government had helped in financing the building of a manmade city (think of ‘White’ Edgar F. Kaiser and today’s Kaiser Permanente) for us to live in. Blacks were given verbal assurances by White officials that we would be safe and secure living in the manmade city named Vanport.
Following the ‘war’ years, however, the Black adults who remained in Vanport knew that we had lost our wartime usefulness to the Whites of Oregon. Meetings were held and we Blacks were again repeatedly promised by White officials that we would be safe remaining in Vanport. We were told that Vanport was secure and that we did not need to worry about the city flooding or anything else.
In short time, the White man’s word proved to be worthless and the city of Vanport flooded in 1948.
The Black adults who survived the 1948 Vanport flood often reminisced and – sometimes mulled over — the events and timeliness of the Vanport flood. They expressed that the flood was an intentional racist attempt to eliminate their Black presence in Oregon. And, although I was but a child at the time of the Vanport flood, I was always allowed to be present during adult talk and discussions.
In spite of the accepted ‘official’ government counts, the Black men and women who lived in Vanport knew firsthand that the number of Blacks who died in the flood was far greater than recorded in ‘official’ records.
I am a ‘Black’ survivor of Vanport. My account of events is non-negotiable! And, by the way, my Black family never received a dime in compensation for our losses nor did we receive any government assistance. Likewise, we did not receive any help or even an apology from ‘White’ Edgar F. Kaiser who so richly profited as a result of Vanport.
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