African Americans of Portland
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The prolific journey of African Americans in Portland is rooted in the courageous determination of black pioneers to begin anew in an unfamiliar and often hostile territory. Amazingly, a small population of African Americans settled in Portland against a backdrop of exclusion laws that banned free blacks from settling in Oregon. At the end of the 19th century, new employment opportunities in Portland and growing antiblack sentiments elsewhere spurred the growth of Portland's African American community. Approximately 75 African American men were hired at the Portland Hotel, and the completion of transcontinental rail lines brought African American railroad workers to Portland. By 1890, the majority of Oregon's black population resided in Multnomah County, and Portland became the center of a thriving black middle-class community. Fifty years later, the recruitment of defense workers increased the population of African Americans nearly tenfold. The war boom, coupled with the tragic Vanport flood, forever changed Portland's urban landscape and reshaped the socioeconomic realities of Portland's African American community.