State Employees Confront Oregon’s History of Racism


A training confronting Oregon’s history of racism and white supremacist ideology and policies was attended by over 700 state employees. 

PORTLAND – Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) and Oregon Historical Society (OHS) collaborated on a training for state employees regarding Oregon’s history of racism, white supremacist policies, and resistance to those frameworks.

According to OHS, Oregon’s racial makeup has been shaped by three Black exclusion laws enacted during much of the region’s early history. These laws, all later rescinded, largely succeeded in their aim of discouraging free Black Americans from settling in Oregon early on, ensuring that Oregon would develop as predominantly white. These fundamental exclusions carry weight even into today, as Black people make up roughly 3% of the Oregon population, but have contracted COVID-19 at 4 times the rate of their white counterparts.

DCBS was the first state agency to host a program with the historical society confronting issues of race and racism head on, but OHS hopes to partner with other state agencies for similar programs. The training was also recorded and can be viewed online.

 “In the midst of social injustice and violence against Black, indigenous, people of color, and members of our tribal communities, it has become even more imperative that we move beyond empathy,” said DCBS Director Andrew Stolfi. “We must all take thoughtful and informed action. Learning about the racism in Oregon’s history, and learning about the resistance to discrimination and oppression is one way we can move toward a better future. ” 

Mary Jaeger, DCBS director of external relations learned of the OHS educational program and asked the OHA executive director Kerry Tymchuk if OHS would partner with DCBS for an hour-long talk with a question and answer session at the end of the presentation.

Tymchuk and Oregon Historical Quarterly editor Eliza Canty-Jones gave the presentation on how Oregon’s history has been shaped by white supremacist ideology and policies and resistance to those frameworks for almost two centuries.

“OHS is guided by the belief that an inclusive perspective of the past must uphold historical truths, must encompass multiple voices and realities, and must not suppress uncomfortable information that helps explain why we are the way we are today, ” Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society Kerry Tymchuk said. “By helping to ensure that Oregonians understand and acknowledge the role that racism and xenophobia have played in the history of our state, we seek to foster a better tomorrow.”

About Author

Leah Andrews is the Director of Public Information and Communications at the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

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