Oregon Black Pioneers has announced a new exhibit, entitled "All Aboard" to highlight the Black railroad workers that migrated to Portland in the late 19th and mid-20th century. The interactive exhibit will allow visitors to learn about the jobs available to Blacks on the railroad at the time and even give them the opportunity to simulate some of those jobs.
"Sometimes I think our young people are disconnected because they don't feel like they have a place in the state of Oregon," says Kimberly Moreland of Oregon Black Pioneers. "Once they understand their history, once they understand why African Americans came here, they begin to understand their family history. They become connected to the city of Portland and they even have more of a sense of citizenship and ownership of their city because they believe they're a part of it."
Oregon Black Pioneers, on behalf of a citizen's advisory group made up of local historians and railroad families, is partnering with the Oregon Historical society to put on the exhibit.
According to Moreland, "All Aboard" will show the significant impact the railroad industry had on the growth of Portland's Black community. She says that the industry provided a number of job opportunities that brought Black people from the east coast to Portland. These people ended up forming the nucleus of Portland's Black community, establishing new churches, hotels, newspapers and other businesses.
This knowledge is beneficial to young people especially, says Moreland.
"A lot of the history of African Americans hasn't really been told to our younger generations and I think it's very empowering when young people understand the history and the significant contributions African Americans have made in Oregon and the city or Portland in particular," she says.
The "All Aboard" exhibit will run from Jan. 15 to Apr. 21, 2013 at the Oregon History Museum.