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Bruce Poinsette of The Skanner News
Published: 13 September 2012

The 4th United States Colored Infantry

The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will be holding a series of free events this weekend to observe the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

According to Frank Krone, the events are part of the group's larger efforts to tell "the rest of the story".

"There are, surprisingly, 20,000 Civil War veterans that came here after the Civil War and we'd like to talk about them and find out how they contributed to the state," he says.

The group will be holding a multimedia presentation on the September Union victory at Antietam and the issuing of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincolnon Saturday, Sep. 15 at the Kenton Public Library at 3:00 pm.

Although some believe the famous document freed the slaves, Krone wants to emphasize that it was a "carrot and stick situation".

"The main idea of Lincoln at that time was to try to get the Southern states back into the Union," he says. "He basically told them if they didn't comply by Jan. 1, 1863, that the slaves in the states that were still in rebellion would be considered free.

"And he did offer them, in exchange, to reimburse the slave owners for their property. Even though that's terribly wrong to consider any human being property, that's the way they looked at it in 1862."

The South didn't comply and slavery wasn't abolished until the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

In addition to discussing the Emancipation Proclamation, the Saturday event will also address fugitive slaves that came to Oregon in 1863 and the state's infamous exclusionary laws.

Perhaps the harshest of these was the "lash law" passed by the Provisional Government of Oregon in 1844. According to blackpast.org, although the state banned slavery and required slave owners to set their slaves free, Blacks were subject to whip-lashing as long as they remained in Oregon. If they were caught in the Territory again within six months, they could be punished with more whippings. The law was repealed in 1845.

Krone says most Oregonians aren't aware of this history.

"We don't do a good job of teaching," he says. "They don't have time to go into certain little details, like the Oregon Exclusion Laws for example. They barely have enough time to talk about the basics of the Civil War."

On Sunday, Sep. 16, the commission will be holding a wreath laying ceremony for three Black veterans who were part of the United States Colored Troops. The ceremony will take place at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery at noon.

Lastly, the commission encourages students with laptops and/or smartphones to tune into a free podcast of a Civil War Scholars panel at the Smithsonian Museum on Sep. 17 at 10:30 am. Monday marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.

Krone encourages everyone to come out to the events and learn about Oregon's lesser known Civil War era history.

"I think the most important thing they need to know is the contributions African Americans here made in the 1860s and 1870s," he says. "For example, the first African American restaurant was started in 1870 by Andrew Johnston. I think it's important we talk about the Emancipation Proclamation and what that really did, how that affected the rest of the war, how that still affects us today and how we can learn from both the good and the bad from that."

For more information, go to the commission's website at http://www.oregoncivilwarsesquicentennialcommission.com/.

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