From the late nineteenth century through the beginning of World War II, the best jobs available to African Americans in Portland, Oregon were on the dining cars that came through Union Station and at the hotels around it. Because white-owned businesses were largely closed to people of color, a community of black-owned businesses and social organizations grew in the area surrounding the station. A new exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society explores work and lives of Portland’s African American railroad workers and their families just in time for the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and National Black History Month.
"All Aboard: Railroading and Portland’s Black Community," an exhibit created by Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers and the Oregon Historical, and funded in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities, focuses on the African American railroad workers in Portland in the 1800’s through the 1940’s and the community that grew around Portland's Union Station over the years. The interactive exhibit, which was assembled with the help of an advisory committee of former railroad workers, children of railroad workers, and local historians, features period uniforms and articles from historical black newspapers, and places the stories of Portland’s railroad workers within the context of Oregon’s racial history.
The exhibit opened on Tuesday, January 15th, at the Oregon Historical Society Museum, 1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland, OR, and runs through April 21st.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free for OHS members and residents of Multnomah County, and $5–$11 for nonmembers and nonresidents. On Monday, January 21st, admission is free in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. For a calendar of related events, visit the OHS website.