skip to main content
Oregon State University
Special Collections and Archives
Research Center

Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection, 1993-2020

Predominant Dates: 1993-2019
The Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection consists of two projects, both of which focused on collecting the stories of figures instrumental to the formation and growth of Black communities in Oregon. One project, conducted in 1993, was led by middle school students primarily interested in female elders in Eugene, Oregon. The second project, carried out from 2018-2020, was sponsored by Oregon Black Pioneers and featured community leaders from both Portland and Eugene. The full raw video for this collection is available for viewing online. Founded in 1993, Oregon Black Pioneers is a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve and amplify the history of African Americans in Oregon.
ID: OH 042
Extent: 95.1 gigabytes
Scope and Content Notes
Biographical / Historical Notes
Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.
Arrangement
Preferred Citation: Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection (OH 042), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.
Acquisition Note: Collection materials were donated to SCARC by the Oregon Black Pioneers, as represented by executive director Zachary Stocks.
Acquired: 2022.
Languages of Materials
Other

Container List

Series 1: Matriarchs of the Eugene Black Community Interviewing Project, 1993 Add to Shelf
Interviews conducted by members of the Black History Club at Jefferson Middle School, Eugene, Oregon: Trayvon Cooks, Michael Klindt, Corey Mainor, Cochise Moore, Marcus Nettles and Cory Mainor. The project was facilitated by Bahati Ansari, Robert Bolden, Misa Joo and Roosevelt White.
Extent: 12 video files (.mp4); 4.75 GB
Digital File 1.1: Bernice Johnson, 1993 Add to Shelf
Extent: 0:27:32
Digital File 1.2: Pauline Davidson, 1993 Add to Shelf
Pauline Davidson is the daughter of Bertha Mae Johnson and niece of Bernice Johnson.
Extent: 0:27:01
Digital File 1.3: Annie Mims and John, 1993 Add to Shelf
John may be a son of Annie Mims.
Extent: 0:15:41
Digital File 1.4: Annie Mims and Willie Mims, 1993 Add to Shelf
Willie Mims is a son of Annie Mims.
Extent: 0:32:46
Digital File 1.5: Willie Mims, 1993 Add to Shelf
Willie Mims is a son of Annie Mims.
Extent: 1:36:35
Digital File 1.6: Mattie Reynolds interview 1, 1993 Add to Shelf
Extent: 0:10:01
Digital File 1.7: Mattie Reynolds interview 2 part 1, 1993 Add to Shelf
Extent: 0:33:40
Digital File 1.8: Mattie Reynolds interview 2 part 2, 1993 Add to Shelf
Extent: 0:15:45
Digital File 1.9: Mattie Reynolds interview 3, 1993 Add to Shelf
Extent: 0:21:19
Digital File 1.10: Ed Reynolds, 1993 Add to Shelf
Ed Reynolds is the son of son of Mattie Reynolds.
Extent: 0:28:47
Digital File 1.11: Pearlie Mae Washington, 1993 Add to Shelf
Pearlie Mae Washington does not appear on camera.
Extent: 0:19:29
Digital File 1.12: Jerry Thompson, 1993 Add to Shelf
Jerry Thompson is the adopted son of Pearlie Mae Washington.
Extent: 0:10:53
Series 2: Oregon Black Pioneers Interviewing Project, 2018-2020 Add to Shelf
All interviews conducted by Ruth Kornfield and produced by Gregory Stanley Black. (lighting, audio and camera)
Extent: 11 video files (.mp4); 90.4 GB
Digital File 2.1: Bill Rutherford, March 18, 2018 Add to Shelf
In this interview, Bill Rutherford reflects on his childhood and experience as a young man in college. Rutherford recounts that he rarely ran into trouble on account of his race when he was young, so long as he stayed in the parts of town where Black people could safely travel. He also recounts that he often had trouble socializing with other Black people in his community, as he was not an athlete as most of the other young Black men around him were. He also discusses his experiences growing up in his grandfather’s house, his experience growing up in a neighborhood largely populated by eastern European immigrants post-World War I, and his experience attending Black churches as a young boy. Rutherford goes on to recall his experiences serving in the Air Force, including his motivations for joining, the path that led him to learn cartography, and how military service allowed him to travel across the country. He pays particular attention to a memorable summer he spent in Washington, DC. As part of this, Rutherford also compares his experience growing up Black on the west coast with his experiences in other parts of the country. Rutherford also discusses his relationship with his wife, Martha, who is white, and the family difficulties that created with both his parents and his in-laws. Rutherford also discusses his life and career after leaving military service, including his time in Los Angeles and his eventual return to Portland to raise his children.
Extent: 0:58:16
Digital File 2.2: Geraldine Hammond, April 12, 2018 Add to Shelf

In this interview, Geraldine Hammond reflects on her experiences as a black woman in higher education. She compares her experiences at a historically black college, a racially segregated university, and an integrated university. Considering the race relations at her graduate school institution, Hammond remarks that it always varied depending on the people she interacted with and what day it was, but recalls having a mostly positive experience, despite being one of only a few African-American students on campus. Hammond fondly remembers her time living with her aunt and uncle in Portland, with whom she was very close, as well as meeting, marrying, and buying a house with her husband. Hammond recalls having few negative experiences with her neighbors, despite being Black and moving into a mostly white neighborhood.

Hammond then goes on to discuss her teaching career, starting with her experience being the youngest staff member in her first professional teaching position. She credits positive relationships and mentorship from other staff members as having helped her begin her career in education. Hammond then recounts her public educational television program, "Ms. Gerry and Friends." In this program, she would go on walks around the community and teach children and their parents how to appreciate their communities and the world around them. As part of this program, she also frequently made school visits. After this television program ended, Hammond earned her Master’s degree in Administration from the University of Oregon, where she also worked to build a more inclusive history of the school's education program. Hammond then goes on to recount her experience as the first African-American principal in Salem and discusses her experience with tokenism as well as the difficulties schools faced at the time surrounding school integration policies. She then goes on to discuss her experience developing an inclusive curriculum for the school district, including how the curriculum was conceived and developed, as well as specifics of the curriculum and how it was taught. She also fondly recalls how a school came to be named after her, and the celebrations put on by the students and staff for her birthday. Hammond goes on to discuss her social life, hobbies, and family. She finishes the interview by reflecting on her participation in the Civil Rights Movement, race relations in Oregon, and her work with the NAACP.

Extent: 2:06:19
Digital File 2.3: Charmaine Coleman, May 14, 2018 Add to Shelf
In this interview Charmaine Coleman begins by discussing her family and their background, starting with her grandfather. Viewing her family background as a core part of her identity and life trajectory, she remarks on how her family affected her worldview and her approach to life as a Black woman. She goes on to discuss an incident where a local community center named after her husband was vandalized, and how that affected her. She then recounts her experiences in higher education, and particularly the racism she faced as a student at the University of Oregon, where she asserts prejudice was often hidden behind intellectualism and college elitism. In particular, she recalls how the university failed to provide her with the support they had promised her, and how she was isolated and shut out by the white students on campus. She goes on to talk about how she began her teaching career, and how she was able to go straight into student teaching thanks to the support she had from other community members. Coleman then spends time discussing her personal life, and how class and race intersected to affect her relationships with friends and neighbors. She also talks about her faith, and how the schism between Catholics and Protestants negatively affected her ability to make friends with other Black people. She also remarks on how being educated and upper-class often acted as a barrier between her and other members of the Black community. Coleman also reflects on her heavy involvement with the Democratic Party, and on how she was not as deeply involved with the NAACP due to management issues she saw with the organization. Coleman finishes the interview by reflecting on her heavy involvement with her church, and how she brought a valuable Black perspective to her faith community.
Extent: 2:32:44
Digital File 2.4: Joy Pruitt, June 28, 2018 Add to Shelf
In this interview, Joy Pruitt begins by recounting her experience growing up as one of the only Black families in her neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. She discusses the racism and prejudice she faced from both students and teachers as the only Black person in her elementary school class. She goes on to talk about her experience as an undergraduate student at Linfield College, where she was the only Black person in her small town. There, she faced significant racism but credits the support of her parents and the Urban League of Portland for helping her cope. She also discusses her positive experiences of easily making friends with white students and how that affected both her and her friends. Pruitt also spends time recounting her parent’s backgrounds and upbringing in Mississippi, surrounded by substantial, often violent, Klansmen activity. Pruitt goes on to reflect on her career as a teacher, and the racism she faced being a Black teacher. She briefly recounts her husband’s career as a dentist, as well as the racism he faced in his career while first getting started. Pruitt remarks that she was too busy working and parenting during the Civil Rights Movement to be heavily involved, but that she was a member of many organizations and was heavily involved with the Urban League of Portland throughout her life. She also discusses her experiences buying homes in Portland, and both the racism she faced from her neighbors, and the friends she made in her neighborhoods. Pruitt goes on to share her hobbies and details of her social life, including how much she loves to host and entertain, her active life playing tennis at age 89, and her love of music. Pruitt ends the interview by recounting how lucky she felt to have great parents, supportive friends, a happy childhood, and an active life. Her last message to viewers is to remember the importance of education and supporting children.
Extent: 1:43:20
Digital File 2.5: Richard Hunter, November 11, 2018 Add to Shelf
In this interview, Richard Hunter begins by talking about his childhood, especially his experiences growing up poor in a mostly Black neighborhood and attending predominantly Black schools. He also discusses his parents’ background and upbringing, their education, and how they came to Portland to work in the shipyards. He focuses particularly on his father’s membership and involvement with the Masonic lodge, including how he founded a lodge for Black members in 1945. Hunter goes on to reflect on his experience growing up as a pastor’s kid and his experience growing up in a large Black community. He then discusses his education and reflects on how he often had difficulties in school because his teachers did not understand him or his culture, although he did find a love of music in school, and played the trumpet starting in the 7th grade and continued playing in bands throughout high school. He then describes how college didn’t work out for him, how he started using drugs, and how he was turned away from this life through a religious experience that led him to pastoring. Hunter reflects on his personal views on faith and church communities. He then talks about the variety of jobs he had when he was young in addition to pastoring, as well as how he tried to pastor full-time but decided this was a mistake due to the financial burden it placed on him. He then goes on to describe in detail his first marriage, including how they met, how he navigated their large age difference, and the marital conflicts that led to their separation and eventual divorce. He then goes on to describe the feelings that led him to change careers and start working in community services. Hunter goes into detail describing his work in affordable housing and community development as part of a neighborhood association. As part of this, he explains the circumstances under which he met his second wife. He then goes on to reflect on why that marriage also failed, and how he married her for the wrong reasons. Hunter describes his son’s gang involvement, as well as how his son overcame that and now works to help kids get out of gangs. Towards the end of the interview, Hunter describes his later career, working in community development, community services, and employment services, before working at the Oregon Department of Transportation. He then goes on to talk about his life in retirement. Hunter finishes the interview by reflecting on how fondly he remembers his childhood and being part of a large community, and how his favorite part of his adult life was his community involvement and work to make his community a better place.
Extent: 2:35:42
Digital File 2.6: Aletha Chavis - Interview 1, May 2, 2019 Add to Shelf
Aletha Chavis opens this interview by reflecting on her early childhood and the houses she grew up in. She places particular emphasis on the importance of her neighborhood and her community in how she grew up. She then recalls how her parents came to Oregon from Barbados, and how her parents met. She then goes on to reflect on her experiences in school, and the racism she often faced as the only Black student in her class. Chavis remarks how she was usually untroubled or unaware of other people’s racism, and rarely let it affect her. She then discusses her time at Vanport Junior College and the race relations on campus. She then talks about her time working as a nursing aide for disabled children, and her frustration that no one wanted to help the children become more self-sufficient. Chavis then reflects on her time at the Oregon College of Education, where she was forced to live off-campus because there were no other people of color on campus to live with her. She then goes on to talk about her experiences student teaching, and early experiences working as a teacher in Portland, particularly the racism she faced as the only Black teacher at her school. She then goes into detail about the social dancing scene in Portland at the time, and how important dances were, as many other forms of entertainment were not open to Black people. She then goes on to talk about her experience moving to and living in Oakland, California. Chavis takes a brief detour to discuss how her family was the only Black family in her church growing up, and how that affected her relationship with the church. She then recalls in detail her time after she married her husband, and how she spent years moving around constantly due to her husband’s Navy deployments. She particularly focuses on how she experienced race and racism differently in different parts of the county, especially the racism she faced in Beeville, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She finishes her first interview by discussing how she moved back to Portland with her three daughters after divorcing her husband, and how teaching in Portland differed from teaching in other parts of the United States.
Extent: 2:16:57
Digital File 2.7: Aletha Chavis - Interview 2, May 2, 2019 Add to Shelf
Aletha Chavis opens her second interview by recounting her early life and childhood, particularly focusing on the houses and neighborhoods she lived in, the schools she went to, and her experience growing up poor. She then talks about how her mother came to Portland, Oregon from Barbados. Chavis then goes on to talk about her experiences in grade school, including her parents' high expectations of her, her friendships, and the racism she faced in school. She then jumps forward to talk about when she came back to Portland after leaving her husband and discusses how she bought the house next door to her mom. Chavis then recalls her experiences teaching in Portland, including race relations in schools and her approach to discipline in the classroom. She then discusses her time on an advisory committee that taught teachers and schools how to improve educational outcomes for Black students. She goes on to talk about getting her Master's degree in Administration from the University of Portland, and how that led to her becoming Vice Principal at Grant High School. She remembers her time at Grant, particularly its problems with racism. Chavis then goes on to describe in detail the circumstances that led her to join the school district’s central administration in the personnel department, and how she was promoted to Director of the department after only one year. She particularly recounts her feelings knowing she was a “diversity hire”, and the struggle she faced earning the respect of her employees. She then talks about her life in retirement and the activities she has pursued since retiring, particularly her volunteer work for the Oregon Convention Center and the Portland Tourism Department. She then recounts her family life in Portland and her experience raising three kids as a single mom with the support of her own mother. Chavis ends the interview by talking about her love of dancing and how she found a passion for barbershop choir in her retirement.
Extent: 1:29:58
Digital File 2.8: Kay Toran, May 9, 2019 Add to Shelf
Kay Toran begins the interview by reflecting on the importance of growing up in a close, Black neighborhood, as well as the values that her parents raised her to have. She then goes on to recount her time in grade school and high school, particularly the importance student government had in her life. She explains her reasoning for attending the University of Portland and recalls her time there. She then describes the time she spent living in Germany, especially the impact it had on her and the experience of being Black in Germany. Toran then discusses her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in her youth. She goes on to describe her parents, including their missionary work as well as her parents’ experience starting and running a hair salon - the first Black-owned business in Portland that had been built from the ground up. She then recounts her early career and how she was often dissatisfied with the kind of work she was doing, which led her to pursue her Master’s degree. She then describes her career in detail, discussing her work in local government and the circumstances that led her to climb the ranks so quickly. She also talks about her relationships with the Governor at the time, and goes into detail about her work revitalizing the Children’s Services department. Toran then discusses her tenure as the CEO of Volunteers of America Oregon, including the history of the organization and the work she has done in her time there. She goes on to talk about her views on retirement before discussing her personal life. Here, Toran reflects on her experience with two divorces and raising her kids as a single mom. She also talks about her social life and hobbies, including her circle of friends, and her social life as a young adult dancing in clubs. She also briefly talks about how she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Portland in recognition of her service to the school and her community. Toran then discusses her faith and church before recounting her perceptions of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on her life. Toran finishes the interview by comparing the state of human rights at the time of the interview and throughout her lifetime.
Extent: 1:53:54
Digital File 2.9: Judy Boyer, October 22, 2019 Add to Shelf
Judy Boyer opens the interview by talking about how and why her parents moved to Portland, Oregon. She then goes on to reflect upon her early childhood, including her experiences growing up in a mostly white neighborhood, being the only Black family in her family’s church, and being one of two Black children in her grade school. She then talks about going to a diverse high school, and how much that experience differed from her earlier years. Boyer then goes on to discuss her career training and her early career, going into detail about her time working at Goodyear Tires. She then discusses her time working at the employment office, remarking on the employment discrimination she witness and how that led her to get involved with union organizing. Boyer then talks about her time working for a local union office, and how that began her involvement in political activity and organizing. Boyer goes on to reflect upon meeting her second husband and her experience raising a blended family. She also discusses the importance of politics in people’s daily lives, the importance of church and faith in her life, and the values that her parents instilled in her. She then discusses her family life. Boyer then recalls the circumstances that led her to lose her union job, and how that led her into a career working in nonprofits, primarily in the field of employment and training. She also recalls her time working as staff for Gladys McCoy, the first African-American Multnomah County Chair. She recalls the circumstances that led her to go back to school and her experience getting her degree later in life. She then reflects on the Civil Rights Movement, including her own involvement and her perspectives on the differing approaches to the movement. Boyer ends the interview by stressing the importance that family had had in her life.
Extent: 1:14:18
Digital File 2.10: Robert Boyer, October 22, 2019 Add to Shelf
In this interview,  Rober Boyer discusses his upbringing and early interests as a boy, his experiences in the Air Force, his move to and settling in Portland, several early jobs, his career as a dockworker, and his education at Marylhurst College. He then shares his early memories of the African American community in Portland, various community uplift projects that he was associated with, and his interactions with numerous Oregon politicians. From there he reflects on family life and changes he has seen from one generation to the next, as well as his memories of different Portland neighborhoods. The interview next turns its attention to Boyer's social life, his involvement in politics as a community activist and as a state senator, and his years as manager of the King Neighborhood Facility. Boyer likewise discusses his involvement with the Lutheran church, civil rights activism and demonstrations in Portland, gentrification in north and northeast Portland, and the gratitude that he feels for his family. The interview concludes with memories of Mel Renfro and other Black athletes in Oregon and Boyer's involvement in the Portland boxing community.
Extent: 2:02:01
Digital File 2.11: Veverly Campbell, January 31, 2020 Add to Shelf
Veverly Campbell begins the interview by discussing her parents' backgrounds and how they immigrated to Portland. She then goes on to talk about her early childhood, including the neighborhood she grew up in, her early school memories, her church experience, and her relationships with her grandparents. Campbell then recalls her experience as a survivor of sexual assault and discusses the impact that has had on her and her life. She then moves on to talk about her first marriage to an abusive husband, the impact it had on her, and how drugs exacerbated her husband’s violent tendencies. She then recounts how she met and married her second husband, and how her second husband had such a positive impact on her life. Campbell then reflects on her experiences with drug abuse, how she was turned away from that life, and how the trauma she experienced in her life had led her to that point. She then talks about how religion, her best friend who is also a therapist, and her second husband helped her turn her life around. She then considers police brutality in her neighborhood growing up, and the way that race and generational trauma intersect. She also talks about the impact of gang violence on Black communities, and how her own sons got caught up in gangs. Campbell then recounts her career and education, especially focusing on her jobs at Techtronix and Lutheran Interfaith Ministries, as well as her time at Portland Community College. She then takes a brief detour to discuss how her son almost died as a result of gang violence, and how that impacted her and her family. Campbell then talks about her time at Portland State University, including how she got her undergraduate degree and her memories of her time there. She then goes into detail about her career, especially focusing on her jobs at Techtronix, at a Montessori school, and working for Self Enhancement Incorporated. During this time, Campbell also shares her opinions and perspective on the Civil Rights Movement. Campbell then talks about her personal life, including her health issues, how she spends her recreational time, and her faith. Campbell ends the interview by talking about family traditions, holidays, her social life, and the importance of her family and their impact on her.
Extent: 1:59:34