The community is invited for a free screening and presentation on Sunday, August 28 the Open Signal studios. The Skanner Foundation presents “The Wake of Vanport,” a series of short documentary films about the city of Vanport, a housing development created for Kaiser shipyard workers at the onset of World War II. The development — which included schools, community centers and day cares — housed the first large influx of African Americans to the Portland area, and was at one time Oregon’s second largest city.
Survivors and relatives of survivors of Vanport are especially encouraged to attend.
While segregated by block — with Black families living on one block and White families living on the next – its public facilities were racially integrated. Most families who lived in Vanport came from heavily segregated Southern communities, and businesses in Portland itself were often segregated. Due to a housing shortage in Portland, many Vanport residents continued to live there after the war ended, though the homes were small and hastily built.
Then on Memorial Day – May 30, 1948 – the city, which at its peak had a population of 42,000 people, washed away in a matter of hours. A Columbia River dam burst and all the major structures in Vanport were destroyed.
“The Wake of Vanport” series features interviews with surviving Vanport residents, most of whom were children at the time of the flood.
Kam Williams, a New Jersey-based film critic and regular contributor to The Skanner, described this series as “a fascinating collection of tributes to a beloved hometown that could have just as easily been forgotten forever after being wiped off the map in a flash.”
The August 28 screening begins at 1:30 p.m. at Open Signal, 2766 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Portland. Parking is available at their lot on Grand Street. The event is free, but space is limited and a reservation is required. For more information, and to reserve a seat, click here or hit the button below.
A film crew will be onsite to record Vanport residents' comments or stories for this ongoing project. If you are a Vanport survivor and are unable to reserve a ticket, please email us.
This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities