Oregon State University
Oregon African American Railroad Porters Oral History Collection

E. Shelton Hill Oral History Interview, Part 1. July 7, 1983

E. Shelton Hill Oral History Interview, Part 1

Interview conducted by Michael Grice.

July 7, 1983

Location:  Location Unknown.

E. Shelton Hill was born in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma, where his father was working as an interpreter. During college in Kansas, Hill held summer jobs as a waiter in local hotels. Hill was recruited by a friend to join the railroad. He tells the story of his recruitment and working for the railroad every summer during college. Hill recalls the Golden West Hotel in Portland, the second largest black hotel in the country. He also discusses the Oregon constitution’s exclusion laws which prevented black persons from living in the state if they were unemployed and kept the black population low for many years even when the railroad began employing black persons. Hill describes the positions available to black workers on the railroad and the hierarchy among those positions, as well as the jobs that were unobtainable, regardless of skill level. Hill then describes social life in the black community of Portland, including women’s groups.