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1788
Marcus Lopez, cabin boy of Captain Robert Gray, becomes the first person of African descent known to have set foot on Oregon soil.

1805
York, William Clark's slave, comes west with Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.

1844
Slavery is declared illegal in the Oregon Country. The infamous "Lash Law," requiring that Blacks in Oregon — be they free or slave — be whipped twice a year "until he or she shall quit the territory," is passed in June. It is soon deemed too harsh and its provisions for punishment are reduced to forced labor in December.

1848
Oregon's Provisional Government passes the first Exclusion Law in the Oregon Country.

1849
Federally-appointed Governor Joseph Lane proclaims Oregon a Territory of the United States.

1850
The Oregon Donation Land Act grants free land to "whites and half-breed Indians" in the Oregon Territory. Note that the language of the act prevents Blacks from claiming land in Oregon.

1851
Jacob Vanderpool, a saloonkeeper living in Salem, becomes the only person known to have been kicked out of the Oregon Territory because of his skin color.

1853
Washington Territory is formed.

1854
Oregon's Exclusion Law is repealed. Following the gold strikes in southern Oregon, pro-slavery forces advocate forming a new state in southern Oregon and northern California, but the movement fails when Californians reject the idea of reducing the size of their state.

1857
The pro-slavery separatists in southern Oregon bring an amendment to vote but again fail to carve a new federal Territory out of the southwestern region of the Oregon Territory. Although slavery is illegal in the Territory, a bill to protect slave property in Oregon is proposed in the Territorial Legislature. It is voted down on the grounds that it would grant special rights to slave owners. Meanwhile, a new exclusion law is added by popular vote to the constitution's Bill of Rights.

1858
Just prior to statehood, Oregon elects its first state officials. Governor "Honest John" Whiteaker, as well as many lesser officials, were well known for their pro-slavery views. In California, an exclusion law again threatens to pass the state legislature. Despite its failure, pervasive racism along America's West Coast inspires many Black settlers to head north to British Columbia.

1859
On February 14, 1859, Oregon becomes the first state admitted to the Union with an exclusion law written into the state constitution.

1861
The Civil War begins in the East. The Knights of the Golden Circle, an anti-Union, pro-slavery group, opens chapters in many Oregon communities. Their ultimate goal in the Northwest is to secede from the US and found their own Pacific Coast Republic.

1862
Oregon adopts a law requiring all blacks, Chinese, Hawaiians, and Mulattos (people of mixed ethnic heritage) residing in Oregon to pay an annual tax of $5. If they could not pay this tax, the law empowered the state to press them into service maintaining state roads for 50 cents a day. Interracial marriages are banned in Oregon; it is against the law for Whites to marry anyone 1/4 or more Black.

1864
The Knights of the Golden Circle become openly militant, but the group falls apart when it becomes apparent that the Union will win the Civil War.

 

1865
The Civil War ends. The 13th Amendment, banning slavery in the United States, passes by referendum in Oregon.

1866
Oregon's citizens do not pass the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to Blacks. The state's ban on interracial marriages is extended to prevent Whites from marrying anyone who is 1/4 or more Chinese or Hawaiian, and 1/2 or more Native American.

1870
The 15th Amendment, granting Black men the right to vote, is added to the U.S. Constitution despite failing to pass in both Oregon and California. This federal law supersedes a clause in the Oregon State Constitution banning black suffrage.

1883
An attempt is made to amend the Oregon Constitution to remove its ban on Black suffrage. The effort fails despite passage of the 15th Amendment. Further attempts to remove the language prohibiting Blacks from voting were made in 1895, 1916, and 1927.

1887
A ban on interracial marriages in the Washington Territory is lifted.

1889
Washington gains statehood. The state constitution includes a ban on racial discrimination in schools.

1914
The Portland chapter of the NAACP, the oldest continually chartered chapter west of the Mississippi River, is founded.

1926
Oregon repeals its exclusion law, amending the state constitution to remove it from the Bill of Rights.

1927
The Oregon State Constitution is finally amended to remove a clause denying Blacks the right to vote.

1948
The state Supreme Court declares California's law banning interracial marriages to be unconstitutional.

1951
Oregon repeals its law prohibiting interracial marriages.

1959
Oregon voters ratify the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Excerpted from information from the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretative Center.

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