The Eugene Black Panther Party membership was about 20 members with 15 underground members. Howard Anderson was the Captain and Ray Eaglin, the General.
Being an investigative reporter, a historian, and a seer, is about the most thrilling thing you can be. Yesterday I was going to post….All Roads Lead To Marilyn….and suggest those four streets on the Waterfront be named after her….Marilyn Road. Marilyn Street. Marilyn Way. Marilyn Lane. Why? Because this White Woman has done more for the Black Man, and the Indian Man, than is believable!
Above is a pic of Marilyn with her half-sister, Shanah. M went to live with her in Paris after graduating from High School. She found herself surround by radical blacks. After Shanah disappeared, her mother saw Eldridge Cleaver on the Pat Robertson show, and sent him a letter asking if he knew where Shanah was. He did. There was a reunion. I met S in Eugene. I doubt she knew there was a chapter of the Black Panthers in Eugene. The founders came from Compton that is next to Watts when M and S went to hear Jazz. S was married to Les McCann’s drummer, Ron Jeffries. J.J. Johnson made dinner for M when she was fifteen. The LA Story – is fiction.
For some reason I wanted to hold a contest to rename the Waterfront streets after Lena and her sisters who came up from the South to make ships for the war. I then found the truth in a thesis written by a graduate of the U.of O.
The Ferry Bridge Village was located in Alton Baker Park where the Black Culture Festival was held. I am sure they did not know. You could see this Hobo Camp from EWEB and the Waterfront Park. Many of the black residents came up from the Bay Area where they worked making Liberty Ships. When the war ended, the cities the Government made for them – were abruptly closed. I founded The Marin Shipmates around this travesty!
I’m waiting to hear the decision of the Judge who stopped the investigation of Donald Trump who stole Top Secret documents. Imagine if the Black Panther stole Top Secret documents – and rushed the Capitol as an angry mob bent on overthrowing the U.S. Government. We would be watching public executions by firing squad.
Shanah lived with Carlos Moore who wrote a book about Fela that became a his musical. I want to write a musical titled…..Compton on the McKenzie. It’s about Black Panther relocating from Compton to Eugene Oregon. This musical play – writes itself!
President: Royal Rosamond Press
Black Panthers | MNCH Exhibits (uoregon.edu)
Eugene Oregon Chapter (itsabouttimebpp.com)
Black Panther Party Photo Eugene Oregon 1969 Archival Print – Etsy Australia
Oregana photos: Black Panthers emerge & U of O … | UO Office of the President | Oregon Digital
The Black Doll Of La La Land | Rosamond Press
The Marin Shipmates
Posted on August 29, 2020 by Royal Rosamond Press
Yesterday I am sitting on the bus bench looking at these two good ol boys come out of a black Japanese-built beater – with a Confederate flag on top. They had big guts and grey hair. They were letting it all hang out after Franklin Graham gave our President ABSOLUTION in the White House Rose Garden. They then went inside a phone store. I debated about crossing the street and yanking that flag from atop the car. These seniors were about my age. Were they looking to go down in a blaze of glory? I then thought about going over and talking to them, inform them I am about to form a branch of the Black Panther Party called…
I bought MARINSHIPMATES.COM before I went to see my doctor. The night before, I watched a old movie about MARINSHIP. It was about the Government BUYING land in Marin County, and city named MARIN CITY to build Liberty Ships – and oil tankers. Then I see King Faidal and his bodyguards coming aboard the flag ship
Broadway’s Dead End Rap Kids | Rosamond Press
Mark Meadows complying with DOJ subpoena, turning over documents previously shared with House Jan. 6 committee (msn.com)
The Marin Shipmates | Rosamond Press
The Black Panther Party, founded by me and Huey Newton in Oakland-California in 1966 grew quickly into a national organization. While Huey P. Newton sat in jail, a political prisoner, I organized five thousand people into the Black Panther Party in forty-nine chapters and branches across the USA. This is the history of one of those chapters:
The Eugene, Oregon chapter of the Black Panther Party started in 1968 and ended around 1970. It had a profound impact on the city of Eugene, the students of the University of Oregon and the small number of African-Americans that were born or had lived in Eugene most of their lives. Most importantly was how the Black Panther Party influenced the Black students at the University of Oregon.
The Black Panther Party grew out of the Black Student Union of the University of Oregon.. Black students had issues that primarily dealt with the University community, racism and academics. This left a void in the overall struggle of the small Eugene ineffective Black community. The Black Panther Party occupied this hold with community-based programs.
At this time, two brothers named Elmer and Aaron Dixon headed the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party. They came down to Eugene to help organize the Eugene Chapter. They left three Seattle members in Eugene to support the development of the Eugene Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party established a few community survival projects. These projects were located off the University of Oregon campus and focused on the poor people of Eugene. Because the Black Panther Party had an overall philosophy of looking at issues from a class analysis and not only a race analysis, these projects served the total poor community, Black and non-Black people. These projects were:
A Free Breakfast Program that served 20-30 young children everyday.
A Liberation School that focused on African and African American history and some of the untrue accounts of Eurocentric academics/curricula.
A Public Speaker Program that participated in demonstrations/rallies on Vietnam, racism, or all the other “isms.” These speaker programs also tried to educate the greater Eugene community on the goals and philosophy of the Black Panther Party.
The membership of the Black Panther Party at its height was 18-20 members with 10-15 underground members. The Black Panther Party had a lot of support from many whites at the U of O and in the community. The core members of the Eugene Chapter were from Compton/Los Angeles (southern California). Most had a pre-Panther relationship with each other that went back to elementary school. Most core members knew each other’s families (i.e., mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers). All Black Panther Party members had experienced racism in Eugene that primed them to join such a revolutionary organization. Most core members were brought to or influenced to move to Eugene from the leadership members of the Black Panther Party. (Howard and Tommy Anderson) However, most moved to Eugene before the start of the Black Panther Party.
Howard Anderson was Captain of the Eugene Chapter. He was the first person from Compton to move to Eugene in 1965 after working in the southern United States; in Mississippi and Alabama with CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) and SNCC (Students for Non-Violence Coordinating Committee). In 1966, Howard convinced his younger brother Tommy Anderson to move to Eugene and attend the U of Oregon.
The Eugene Chapter of the Black Panther Party developed very good supportive relationships with other revolutionary organizations. Some of these organizations or individuals were as follows:
1. Patriot Party – Euro-Americans that focused on the poor whites. The head of this organization was a man called “Preacher Man.” The Eugene Chapter was organized by Chuck Armsbury and his wife.
2. Brown Berets – headed by a small group of Chicanos from Los Angeles with Ray Verdugo as their Eugene Chapter head. They organized resistance to the exploitation of the Chicano community in Eugene and other migrant farming communities in surrounding areas.
3. Asian student organizers that focused on racism, stereotyping and other issues related to students of Asian descent. Ellen Bepp and Sandra Muraoka were the contact people.
All Power To All The People!
The Eugene Black Panther Party membership was about 20 members with 15 underground members. Howard Anderson was the Captain and Ray Eaglin, the General.
Image credit: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Archives
Children at the Eugene Black Panther’s free breakfast program raise their fists in solidarity. This program fed up to 40 children—Black and non-Black—each morning before school. The aim was to prevent students from poor families from going to school hungry.
Image credit: Daily Emerald Archives
Actor forges friendship with Black Panther through role in Fela! – MSR News Online (spokesman-recorder.com)
Fela: The Man, the Music and the Legend – The Observer (fordhamobserver.com)
Eugene Oregon Chapter (itsabouttimebpp.com)
On the eve of Lincoln’s birthday, according to the editors, Eugenians needed to address these problems as a cohesive community. This editorial seems to mark a change in tone for the Register-Guard. The paper would continue to advocate for racial equality in future decades and to approach racism more directly as the African-American community grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s. During this heady era, Eugene formed the Congress on Racial Equality and attracted a number of Black Panthers from California.
Short History of the Black Panther Party in the Eugene, Oregon Chapter
Written by Jaja Anderson (Tommy)
Though you may not have heard Fela’s songs or the term “afrobeat,” you’ve most likely heard music influenced by his rebellious lyrics and driving melodies. Afrobeat is a mix of funk, psychedelic rock, jazz, and old West African chants and rhythms. An energetic Mambo sang Fela’s clever chants such as “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” and “Yellow Fever” to blaring saxophones and thumping drums; his lyrics, originally sung in Nigerian pidgin, are defiant at oppressive authority and multinational corporations. Today, you could easily find traces of Fela’s music in funk and hip-hop songs.
Next Fela talks about his time in Los Angeles during the late 1960s where he is fascinated by America’s sexual and drug revolution. While in L.A., he meets singer and former Black Panther Sandra Izadore (played by Saycon Sengbloh), who influences Fela to explore black literature such as “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and to get involved in the black power movement. After gaining success with Africa 70 in the states, Fela returns with his band to Nigeria where he founds his own commune, “Kalakuta Republic.” Now back in his home country, Fela expresses his determination to uplift his fellow Nigerian people. His frustration with the Nigerian government comes out through his song “Zombie,” a song highly critical, and even mocking his country’s politics and military. Suddenly, the audience is horrified as it watches Fela’s commune is infiltrated by one thousand soldiers who burn all of Fela’s buildings, rape his dancers, destroy all of his equipment and musical records and kill his senile mother, Funmilayo (played by Lillias White).
Oregon’s Hello to Obama
Posted on December 29, 2012 by Royal Rosamond Press
While in a nightclub of a friend, I suggested to Rick Cobian we produce a inaugural celebration. He and Kenny Reed had just done a song about Obama and had played it several times. “Hey Obama!” was the extent of the words. I gave Kenny these words and called around town to see if I could gather some performers on short notice. At the time, Kenny, Rick and I were partners in the Bohemian Bank, based upon my ideas to change the American economy that was based upon the ‘Get Hippie’ religion of the right-wing idealogues who have brought our government and our economy to a halt.
We chose the Bakery, and I brought the Rosamond print to put on the bare wall. That is Marilyn Reed singing chorus, and Izzy Whetstine the Prankster poet who also read at the Granary.
Oregon’s Hello to Obama
A Inaugural Production
A dark stage
A beam of light comes down upon Rick and Van.
A soft slow beat begins on the congas.
Van joins in.
Van: “Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama”
Van’s voice fades as does the spotlight.
A spot shines down center
Female dancer dressed like the Fool dances into the light.
She has bells on her ankles and on her neck and hat.
Other unseen drummers join in.
The Merry Jester does a furious, leaping solo dance.
Faster and faster she dances
And then collapses.
Getting up, she shades her eyes and looks right then left, then, behind her
“Where did everybody go?” she asks.
“Am I all alone?”
The Jester wanders off, calling out;
“Hello! Is anybody there?
Olly olly oxen free!”
Doesn’t anyone want to play?
“Olly olly oxen free!”
Her voice fades away.
(The phrase can also be used to coordinate hidden players in the game “kick the can”, where a group of children hide within a given radius and a “seeker” is left to guard a can filled with rocks. The seeker has to try to find the “hiders” without allowing them to sneak in and kick the can.)
Right of center stage, Niesha begins a Cello solo
The background grow light – a deep thalo blue
There is a street light, a flame that grow bright.
There is a sign on the post;
A spotlight from above
A black saxophonist wanders in to join Niesha in a Ode to Expatriates.
The Fool joins in with a ballet
Spotlight and flame fade.
Theme: A Nation within a Nation
Native American drummers in a circle are silhouetted against gold sun (big O)
Native American Dancers come to center stage from right and left.
After a minute the Fool joins their dance.
The dancers file off stage, leaving seated drummers
A strobe light begins stage left, followed by colorful laser rays.
Behind the shadowy Street Drummers is a colorful Peace banner
Spotlight on Eugene street drummer who begin drumming.
Some folks are beating on bottles
A black brother stands up and sings
“O say can you see
some change a’comin?”
Brother drummers answer;
It’s a O Bama Nation”
“You don’t need no ticket
Just get Onboard “
Brothers give new peace sign of the O and begin African beat
From stage left come Caroline’s African dance troop.
The Merry Jester joins in.
A spotlight brightens slowly on a flag with a circle of fifty stars in the filed of blue.
Above the flag are the words “Oh say can you see.” Below flag, these words; “A Big Change a comin?”
Kenny is on a raised stage with Jazz group and horn players.
Kenny begins his Obama song.
After singing it once through, he sings
“Aloha Amego Obama
Ola Obama Aloha
Gi odi, Oh moho, Samba, Fofo, Amego, Obama
Ly ho yat, Haa he, Samba,
Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama!
Hi-de Hi-de Hi (Jazz band waves hand)
What you say?
How-de howdy-de O (audience makes sign of O)
(Choir shuffles in from right, clapping hands)
Obama! Obama! Obama!
Choir sings choice words from Kenny’s song.
Choir claps hands and sways.
Street drummers join in.
Native America dancers enter stage right.
African dancers enter stage left.
Bagpipers and drummers enter center stage.
Merry Jester cartwheels across the stage
And takes baton from Conductor and leads
Samba Ja comes down center isle and on stage
Aloha. Amego, Obama
Ola Obama Ola
Obama! Obama! Obama!
Hi-de Hi-de Hi (Jazz band waves hand)
What you say?
How-de how-de O (audience makes sign of O)
Obama! Obama! Obama!
Black Man in White Town on JSTOR
ORDER OF EVICTION59 Perhaps the most telling record to emerge from a public records search through county and city archives was the county order that brought the Ferry Street Bridge community to its end. In July of 1949, while housing shortages were the topic oflocal and national news, the Lane County commissioners passed an order demanding the evacuation ofthe Ferry Street Bridge community and the demolition ofthe homes within it,60 According to the order, the community was given ten days to vacate the property. The order, which was part ofthe county’s microfilmed archive of commissioners’ orders in the Land Surveyor’s office ofthe county’s public administration building, was so faded it was nearly umeadable. A copy archived in the county commissioners’ original ledgers was more readable. The best reproduction was provide by local historian Mark Harris. It is reproduced below (See Figure 3.3).
ORDER OF EVICTION59 Perhaps the most telling record to emerge from a public records search through county and city archives was the county order that brought the Ferry Street Bridge community to its end. In July of 1949, while housing shortages were the topic oflocal and national news, the Lane County commissioners passed an order demanding the evacuation ofthe Ferry Street Bridge community and the demolition of the homes within it,60 According to the order, the community was given ten days to vacate the property. The order, which was part ofthe county’s microfilmed archive of commissioners’ orders in the Land Surveyor’s office ofthe county’s public administration building, was so faded it was nearly umeadable. A copy archived in the county commissioners’ original ledgers was more readable. The best reproduction was provide by local historian Mark Harris. It is reproduced below (See Figure 3.3).
THE OAKLEY GLENN REPORT7o In 1963, just after he was made Captain of the Eugene Police Department, Oakley Glenn was asked to chair the Lane County Fellowship for Civic Unity, an organization specifically created to help eliminate racial disparities within Eugene. In 1985, he prepared an untitled report that traces the history of Eugene’s African-American community from its settlement in the Ferry Street Bridge area through the turbulent 1960s and into the 1980s, amassing employment and housing data on original Ferry Street Bridge settlers and others from Eugene’s African-American community. While this 68 Ibid. 69 Ibid. 70 Oakley V. Glenn, Untitled history of minorities in Eugene and the establishment of the local Advisory Commission on Human Rights, c.1985. 43 report provides a unique sense of continuity for the community, Glenn’s report has offended some former residents who dispute his survey findings and his account ofthe establishment ofthe Ferry Street Bridge community. Ken Guzowski, Senior Planner with the City ofEugene, provided a copy of this report, which has formed the basis of numerous subsequent records-a fact that irritates former residents. EUGENE AREA CONTEXT STATEMENT7 ! In Chapter Seven of this context statement, prepared by local preservationists Elizabeth Carter and Michelle Dennis for the City of Eugene, a section is devoted to the arrival of African-Americans and their settlement at the foot ofthe Ferry Street Bridge. This report provided the names offounding families: the Mims and Reynolds families. Currently, members ofthese two families are the last living local authorities on life within this short-lived community. Chapter Seven briefly details the founding ofthe Ferry Street village: “It continued to expand until as many as fifty persons resided in the sub-standard tent village. Although a few of the newcomers were able to purchase or rent houses in town, most lived in the Ferry Street bridge ‘village’ because few white residents would rent to black families.’m This report touches on one of the points of contention amongst former residents: While Reynolds family members dispute the “Tent City” 7! Elizabeth Carter and Michelle Dennis, “Eugene Area Context Statement” (Eugene, OR: Eugene Planning and Development, 1996), http://www.eugene-or.gov/portal/server.pt?open=17&objID=1 0074&Dir Mode=1&parentname=Dir&parentid=1&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true [Accessed last on May 16,2009]. 72 Carter and Dennis, Eugene Area Context Statement, Chapter 7, 2. 44 nickname by saying there were no tents on the land, only wood-framed homes, Willie Mims remembers that his own home and the home of his best friend both sported tent roofs over plank walls. EUGENE MODERNISM CONTEXT 1935-196573 One ofthe most detailed public documents related to the evolution ofthe Ferry Street Bridge community, the Eugene Modernism context statement devotes a chapter to the history of various cultural groups, including African-Americans, throughout the World War II era. It closely tracks Eugene’s fIrst established African-American families: the Mims’, Reynolds’ and Washingtons. Though the statement covers the founding of the Ferry Street Bridge community, as well as the establishment of certain families within the city limits, it cites few sources for its historic material. It is, therefore, diffIcult to confIrm certain details, including the histories offamilies no longer living. WILLAKENZIE AREA PLAN, HISTORIC CONTEXT74 One more report provided some context for the foundation ofthe Ferry Street Bridge community. “Willakenzie” is the name given to the area north ofthe Willamette River and south ofthe McKenzie River. Its western boundary is the south-flowing stretch 73 Sally Wright and David Pinyerd, Eugene Modernism 1935-1965. (Eugene, OR: Eugene Planning and Development, 2003), http://www.ci.eugene.or.us/pddlPlanning/eugenehistoric/eugenemodemisml10%20cultural .pdf [Accessed last May 16, 2009]. 74 Maura Johnson in conjunction with the Eugene Planning Division, Willakenzie Area Plan Historic Context (Eugene, OR, August 1989). 45 of the Willamette River, before it bends to the east, and the Eastern boundary is Interstate 5. This area was annexed to the city piecemeal from 1960 on. While the Ferry Street families were living in the southern portion ofthe Willakenzie area along the north bank of the Willamette River, this area was still unincorporated county land. However, it was very close to downtown Eugene, which might have been its initial appeal. Though the report focuses on the growth and evolution ofthe farmlands in this area, it also mentions urban growth, which is considered a potential factor in the demolition and reclamation ofthe lands from the Ferry Street community for the expansion ofthe bridge. As the report states, “The area of greatest loss [of historic resources] is in the vicinity ofCoburg Road just north ofthe river.’.75 (Ferry Street becomes Coburg Road on the north side ofthe river.) The report includes one more interesting detail: a photograph ca. 1949 of children, black and white, huddled around a water pump. Currently, this photo provides the most detailed images of buildings on the Ferry Street site. It was published along with a caption: “Children ofmigrant workers gathering at water pump at the Ferry Street Bridge settlement outside of Eugene.” The caption and the photo were accessed from the Oregon Historical Society files. While the Oregon Historical Society was able to provide no extra information regarding this photo and could not confirm anything about its provenance, the caption, published in quotation marks, suggests that the site was already known to be a laborers’ camp, or that such a camp existed nearby before African-Americans arrived.
1950s. In the following suite of articles, which focus on life for the African-American community post-Ferry Street, note that The Oregonian was willing to publish numerous photographs of life within Eugene’s African-American community and to produce, without condescension or passion, a record oflife under difficult circumstances. The paper was also willing to publish incendiary statements that criticized the local community for its unfair treatment ofits black citizens. 2/1 0/52: “Racial Problem Strikes Eugene,,88 A photograph shows two ofthe Reynolds children carrying a milk jug between them. The caption reads, “Negroes living on the Amazon Creek flat along 11 th street west of Eugene have no water supply, and probably never will have in present area. So they truck water from town in cans, carry it by hand to their homes. Baths are at a premium this way. Shown are Robert and Lois Reynolds with container.” 88 Hugh Scott, “Racial Problem Strikes Eugene,” The Oregonian, February 10, 1952. 57 This is one ofthe first articles to examine the issues of resettlement for former members of the Ferry Street Bridge area. The February 10, 1952 article explains the impetus for settlement in Eugene: Right after the war, a number ofNegroes who had come to west coast states to work in shipyards and other war industries gravitated to Eugene, drawn by activity in sawmills and government damn construction. Several Negro families ‘squatted’ on county property in an area slated to be occupied by the east approach ofthe new Ferry Street Bridge over the Willamette River in Eugene. When the county prepared to build the bridge, the Negro families received notice to vacate the property. That was given in March 1948. They were given six months in which to find new quarters. From this record, it appears that the 1949 order of eviction may have resulted from an earlier notice. Ifso, the earlier notice is not among the retained county orders. The story goes on to include pictures and anecdotes related to the difficult circumstances faced at the West 11 th Avenue site, including flooding, lack of rulming water and indoor plumbing, clay that trapped puddles under the homes for months, and high prices for rent and for land-including $2,000 paid by the church conference for the lots used to build Eugene’s oldest African-American church, St. Mark’s Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which still stands on the site, though all the original surrounding houses are gone, according to Mattie Reynolds (See Figure 3.6 below).8
previous location. According to the February 11, 1952 article, “One thing is agreed: it was a ghastly mistake to settle a dozen Negro families along W. 11th Street, where they can never have water or sewer service. Some solution must be found for the problem.” The article also notes that Eugene was preparing a public discussion to address the issues associated with the settlement and with racism. A representative ofthe Urban League of Portland was slated to address commonly held misperceptions among white Eugenians, including racist beliefs regarding the culture and character of AfricanAmericans and the impact black residents had on property values. The article leaves no doubt that racism and general ignorance were prevalent. As the article states, “Such misconceptions are widely held in Eugene. There just hasn’t been enough contact between Negroes and whites to dispel them.” 2/13/52: “Eugene Group Takes Steps For Racial Relations Council,,91 This article reports on the 400-person discussion held in Eugene on February 12, 1952. The panel addressed stereotypes and discussed the future of housing and employment for Eugene’s black community. The article reports: “The crowd unanimously approved a move to have a smaller group of volunteer citizens formed as a permanent inter-racial relations council.” 91 Al Currey, “Eugene Group Takes Steps For Race Relations Council” in The Oregonian, February 13, 1952. 61 2/27/52: “16 to Devise Racial Po1icy,,92 This article details the formation of a steering committee made up of ten white and six black Eugenians tasked with forming a “local council on ‘intercultural relations.'” This was clearly an early and important step in a local partnership to improve race relations and quality of life issues for local black residents. The index to The Oregonian did not include other mentions ofEugene’s AfricanAmerican community. It is possible that these newspaper reports included some ofthe first photographs and details related to Eugene’s isolated African-American community. As such, newspaper coverage might have helped introduce white Eugene to its black neighbors and to begin to break down impenetrable, ifintangible, barriers. It also appears to have impacted the local newspaper, the Eugene Register-Guard, which changed the tone ofits reportage around the same time. THE EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD: The coverage ofthe Eugene Register-Guard goes through a striking evolution between 1949 and 1952. Within those years, the coverage of the Ferry Street community was sympathetic, but included few intimate portraits of black Eugenians, and often focused on white residents when they were available. The coverage ofthe evacuation of Ferry Street was more sympathetic to white families who had just arrived in Eugene, for instance, than to black families like the Reynolds who lost their three-bedroom home due 92 Staff, “16 to Devise Racial Policy,” in The Oregonian, publication date unknown. 62 to the evacuation. The first suite of articles, detailed below, was published right before the final evacuation was ordered in 1949. Note that the only story related to the Ferry Street villagers before the evacuation notice is the story oftriplets being born to a poor African-American couple, the Johnsons. Date Unknown: “Judge Hurd Gets his Bridge,,93 This editorial details the construction of the new Ferry Street Bridge and gives credit to “County Judge Hurd” for seeing the need for the bridge in 1939 (before the site was settled by Eugene’s African-American population). Hurd is also credited with guiding the county to buy right-of-ways in anticipation. In appreciation, the RegisterGuard’s editorial team recommended naming the bridge after Hurd, rather than the “new Ferry Street Bridge,” as had become convenient. 7/12/49: Ferry Street Mother Bears Three Boys94 This is one ofthe earliest articles to acknowledge the community living north of the bridge. It includes a picture of Charles Johnson tightly wedged between a white nurse and a white doctor, each one holding one ofthe newborn triplets. The story describes the family’s concerns over raising seven children on Charles’s part time salary from the Eugene Chemical Works on Patterson Road. The story is sympathetic to the Johnson family but does not report broadly on the surrounding community.
7/14/49: County Court Tells Ferry St. Villagers to Start Moving95 Two days after the story regarding the Johnson family’s new triplet, this article reports on the Lane County Court’s order to vacate the property for the rebuilding ofthe Ferry Street Bridge. The report claims that residents have ten days to vacate or they will be evicted: “The court order was no surprise to the residents who had been told last spring that July 1 was the absolute deadline for them to move offthe land.” The article says there are 101 people living on the site, 65 ofwhich are “colored” and 36 ofwhich are white. The article interviews a section ofthe populace, including Mrs. Nettle, who says that they have property on West 11 th and a building frame, but no roof, no floor and no doors. Two white families are named: Mrs. Robert Barber who “answered the call at another shack” and Mrs. Mavis Walker who claimed, “We’re white and broke but there is no shame to be broke. We’ve been here two years and you can say definitely there is no place to rent at reasonable prices.” The story also mentions two G.I.s living in a tent near the river preparing to attend school. Finally, the Owens family is called the “most pathetic.” The white family’s parents sleep on the ground while their three children sleep in the family’s Studebaker.
2/19/52: “Editorial: On the Evening ofLincoln’s Birthday,,99 With the theme of emancipation in the background and with the public’s first meeting regarding racial inequality on the horizon, the editors ofthe Register-Guard claimed that it was time for Eugene to acknowledge its own specific “Negro problem,” which “includes not only the difficulties of decent housing but decent jobs for Negro people, according to their abilities.” The editorial claimed that Eugene had opposed the housing of black Eugenians in its white neighborhoods and that the country, as a whole, had failed to meet the promise of egalitarianism written into the Constitution with the 13th and 14th amendments. On the eve of Lincoln’s birthday, according to the editors, Eugenians needed to address these problems as a cohesive community. This editorial seems to mark a change in tone for the Register-Guard. The paper would continue to advocate for racial equality in future decades and to approach racism more directly as the African-American community grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s. During this heady era, Eugene formed the Congress on Racial Equality and attracted a number ofBlack Panthers from California. By the mid-1960s, the editorial voice ofthe paper with regard to race had changed utterly. In the following articles, related specifically to housing struggles in Eugene, racism, when overt, was news worthy. Race, 99 Editorial staff, “Editorial: On the Evening ofLincoln’s Birthday,” The Eugene Register-Guard, February 19,1952. 68 which had been a subtext, an elusive cultural signifier, in previous articles, had by now become an openly debated political issue, and not just in Eugene but on the national stage as part of President Johnson’s national civil rights agenda. Ca. 1964: Discrimination Claim Here Under ScrutinylOO This report explains how twenty-five protestors showed up to picket a house in support of a “Negro” mother and six children who were denied the right to rent it. The article claims that the complaint was under investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the State Bureau of Labor. 5/25/64: “Pickets from e.O.R.E. March In Front ofEugene Dwelling,,101 By 1964, the Eugene chapter ofthe Congress ofRacial Equality (CORE) was advocating for fairness in rental practices. This article claims that a local woman chose not to rent her three-bedroom home to an African-American couple. Members ofCORE said they would rather not picket, but they could not accept housing discrimination anymore. The owner ofthe house on Monroe Street in the Whitaker neighborhood claimed she was not motivated by color but by the decision to sell rather than rent the house. The reporter questioned her neighbors and detennined that some ofthem were still audibly opposed to having African-American neighbors. 100 Unnamed author, “Discrimination Claim Here Under Scrutiny,” The Eugene Register-Guard, 1964. 101 Marvin Tims, “Pickets from C.O.R.E. March In Front ofEugene Dwelling,” The Eugene RegisterGuard, May 25, 1965. 69 5/28/64: “Negro Pair Has ‘Til Friday To Rent Monroe St. House” 102 This article details how CORE, with the help ofthe Civil Rights Division ofthe Oregon Bureau of Labor, negotiated with Mrs. Tubbs to give Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Stubbs the right to rent her house on Monroe Street. Representatives of C.O.R.E. were involved in a half-dozen such cases, said the report, and were beginning to investigate realty practices. Though this case does not directly address the Ferry Street Bridge community, it further emphasizes the tenacity of discriminatory practices in Eugene and provides clues to how such practices were eventually eradicated through regulation, law and partnerships between community groups, the government and the media. 09/25/68: “Rights Probe Ordered of Housing Authority,,103 Housing continued to be a challenge for African-Americans in Eugene long after Ferry Street was razed. This article states that as late as 1968, Eugene’s AfricanAmerican population found it necessary to argue for an investigation to explain the exclusion of African-Americans and low-income residents on executive boards and on the staff ofthe Lane County Housing Authority.
6/7/81: “The Mims of High Street,,108 This three-part story analyzes three generations ofMims’: Annie, Willie C, and David Mims. Annie tells the story ofthe community that grew up north ofthe river: “We got along so good together. .. It was just like camping out.” Her son, Willie c., was interviewed for this report and remains an active and vocal member ofEugene’s founding black families.
12/18/85: “City Loses a Pioneer,,109 This obituary acknowledges Leo Washington as a pioneer for being, along with his wife, “Eugene’s first permanent black residents in modem times.” According to the report, the couple arrived in 1941 from Arkansas and moved to 2nd Street, where they offered their home to black porters on the railroad and black entertainers, including a young Sammy Davis Jr., who could find no other place to stay in Eugene. Though the Washington house was well known as a local safe haven for visiting black celebrities, the date of their arrival in Eugene is disputed, and has been dates as early as 1937. 108 “The Mims of High Street,” The Eugene Register-Guard, June 7,1981. 109 Don Bishoff, “City Loses a Pioneer,” The Eugene Register-Guard, December 18,1985. 74 1/31/93: “Black Island in a Sea ofWhite”lIO One ofthe most complete histories of Eugene’s African-American community and its evolution, Theole’s article, which launched a series ofremembrances for Black History Month, includes one of history’s most telling quotes regarding Ferry Street: “If you’re black and you’re new in this town, Ferry Street is one ofthe first stories that you hear.” This quote from Greg Evans, a one-time mayoral candidate for Eugene, speaks to the enduring quality ofthe Ferry Street narrative. Ferry Street may have been a shortlived settlement, but it allowed African-Americans pulled west by the shipbuilding, timber and railroad industries to find one another, locate near one another, and build a cohesive network. Another quote from Evelyn Grady, identified as a “white woman who was among a group ofEugene citizens who sided with the black families and battled county government,” referred to Ferry Street as follows: “It was terrible the way they were pushed out. It was a disgrace to our town. It was the most awful thing that ever happened in Eugene.” While this is not a universally held opinion, and is disputed even by contemporary Eugenians who once lived at Ferry Street, it points to the dramatic and disruptive nature of Ferry Street’s demise. Many ofthe details we know about the evacuation of Ferry Street are drawn directly from Thoele’s research. For instance:
Finally, with the benefit of hindsight, Thoele was able to add some analysis of these events to his report: “But for those who lived through it, the Ferry Street Village era is seen as a watershed-the first occasion when Eugene blacks asserted their rights and also the first occasion when white citizens allied with them to make the same arguments.” Thoele ends with quotes from both Mattie Reynolds and Willie Mims, who said: It was hard, really hard… But it was a time when black people started to find out they had a few friends in the community. At the same time that you had restaurants on Willamette Street with their ‘Whites only’ signs in the windows, you had a lot of people getting deeply involved on the human side ofthe equation. When 1 look back, there was some real beauty in all ofit. From this report, a number of points emerge that bolster the significance ofthe Ferry Street site for its former residents: 1. This site’s demolition appears to be one ofthe first events that brought white Eugenians to the defense of black Eugenians. This is evident also in the Register-Guard’s coverage ofthe time. While African-Americans were not often the subjects of previous stories, and editorial tone was variable, in the 76 summer of 1949, the Ferry Street community was regularly featured in the front section. 2. Former residents like Willie Mims are able to look back and appreciate the experiences they associate with the site. This is born out in contemporary interviews with Willie, as well, detailed in future chapters. 3. It is clear in the quotes from commissioners and in the activities ofthe sheriff that while sympathy was growing within Eugene’s white community, it had not reached such a level that Eugene’s white leadership would hold back the bulldozers until families could retrieve all their belongings from their homes, which were demolished in spite oftheir inability to find other suitable housing. Nor was the demolition confined to prescribed boundaries, which would have preserved some ofthe buildings
5/22/93: “Student Project Touches Hearts”]]] This story reports on the Jefferson Middle School oral history project-a public commemoration by local students. Jefferson Middle School students interviewed the four remaining matriarchs of Eugene’s early African-American community: Bertha Johnson, Pearlie Lee Washington, Annie Mims and Mattie Reynolds. The students presented copies oftheir filmed interviews to the public and university libraries and told the reporter they hoped their films would be available for others interested in Eugene’s African-American history. (Unfortunately, the video interviews have disappeared from both the University of Oregon and the Eugene public library catalogs. There is speculation that the videos in the Eugene Public Library were deaccesssioned after they were worn out by use, but there is no record ofthe videos ever being part ofthe University of Oregon’s library collection, in spite ofthe fact that former students remember using them in their own research.) III Paul Neville, “Student Project Touches Hearts,” The Eugene Register-Guard, May 22, 1993. 78 2120/94: “Early Oregon Hostile to Blacks,,112 For black history month, the Register-Guard told the story ofJacob Vanderpool, who became, in 1851, the fIrst and only black person to be expelled from the Oregon territory simply because he was black. African-Americans could not legally settle in Oregon because of exclusion laws. It was against the earliest “statutes and laws ofthe territory of Oregon.” According to the story, in 1849, Oregon’s exclusion law was “eliminated, apparently by a clerical error.” Legislators tried to pass a new exclusion law in 1856. When it went to the people for a vote, “Oregonians voted 8,640 to 1,081 to oppose admission to free blacks and mulattos. Although nullifIed a decade later by the Civil War amendments to the U.S. constitution, the exclusion clause remained on the books for decades.” 4/11/95: “One of city’s first blacks dies at age 93: ‘Mama’ Mims: She helped lay the foundation for Eugene’s black community after arriving here in 1946″113 Ofthe founding families in the Ferry Street Bridge area, Annie Mims was both one of the most active, and one ofthe most respected. She lived to age 93, and was, according to the obituary, “a mother” to other Ferry Street residents, including Mattie Reynolds, the last living elder from Ferry Street in Eugene.
WILLIE C. MIMS Willie C. Mims was interviewed twice in the spring of 2009. The first interview occurred in his home, and the second occurred on the site ofthe Ferry Street settlement. The following excerpt describes the succession of homes his family inhabited at Ferry Street. The Mims’, according to Willie’s memory, left the area in 1948 to buy a house on High Street in Eugene’s oldest residential neighborhood, now known as the East Skinner Butte Historic District. The two houses his family purchased are still there and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (See Figure 3.8): Figure 3.8: Mims House in the East Skinner Butte Historic District. When you crossed the river, you went out ofthe city limits and the land that we settled was, if you can imagine, a pile of chopped up wood for a fireplace. You had acres ofthat because that was the land owned by [the Eugene Water and Electric Board]. That was their fuel lots. So, what took place and how folks got permission, I don’t know. The Reynolds family was already there, as I remember, and my father cleared some room in the woodpile. The material they used was discarded lumber from the lumber mills, which means, it was lumber they were getting ready to bum. It was considered trash. The first building my father built was about waist high. It was like you’d build a fence, just slats around as walls. At one end, there was an area for a doorway, and the rest ofit was a tent…. It was square. Just very small, a one room situation. The ground was the floor. And then, sometime later, maybe four or five months, we decided to build a larger house. I hate to call it a house-a larger shack. And the difference was that there were stacks of wood that got the foundation off the ground-probably two feet or three feet offthe ground. And then there was a floor built, and this time, the building was still a one-wall building, where you could still actually see daylight, but there was a roof over it. The place might have been 20 x 20, I’d say. There weren’t 85 actually real rooms in the place that I can remember. The big difference was there was a roof and no tent and it was off the ground. And one reason it needed to be off the ground was because there was no dam on the Willamette River and all of that land over there was low land. So every time the river rose-which it did every year-it flooded over there. One thing I should say to you is that I don’t remember there being more than five structures assembled over there. Q: Was there a porch? A: No porch. Q: And the walls were still up and down slats or sideways? A: They ran horizontal. Q: And the, windows? A: No windows. Q: And was the roof flat or peaked? A: I would think it would have probably been flat and slanted. Q: So one side higher than the other? A: Yeah, yeah. I would imagine that’s what it was. Q: So you had the two structures. How long did you live in the second structure? A: I would say we probably lived there less than a year. It was only a couple years all together that we lived over there. On the layout of the landscape: Well, if you can imagine, again, there were acres ofthese piles of wood, right? And so the trucks had to deliver the wood and take the wood out to the plants. There were little roads going in between, here and there. Kind oflike busy little forest roads, you see? And so there was no structural sequence to where people built houses except they built them along those little roads. I would say that we were probably a good fifty yards from what is now Martin Luther King Blvd. On the Ferry Street Chapel: 86 The only thing I really remember about the church is my mom and I taking a picture with Paul Robeson… She lost the picture. In fact, I would say she lost the picture in the 70s… I just get chills when I think about that. Senator Hatfield-I think he was a state senator at the timel18 — For some reason or another, he was making this tour, trying to make things better and getting the racism quieted down and that sort of thing in Oregon. And he brought Paul Robeson out, and one ofthe trips he took Paul Robeson on was out here…. I just remember looking at a picture. I didn’t know who the guy was. I knew he wasn’t Gene Autry, you know, or Roy Rogers. I knew that, so I didn’t have a lot ofinterest. On racism in Eugene: I remember seeing “Whites Only” signs downtown Eugene. My father could actually pass for white. He once got kicked out of a bar because he was waiting for me. He was having a beer; I was reading a comic book across the street. And I came in to see ifhe was ready to go, and he said, ‘OK, let me have one more beer.’ And the bartender asked him, ‘Is that your son?’ And my father said, ‘Yeah, that’s my boy.’ And he said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t serve you here anymore.’ So it was those kinds of conditions for the grown-ups. On life at Ferry Street: We had all this wood territory. We would romp over the wood, playing cowboys and Indians, plus we had the forbidden river, which we learned to swim in. Plus, all of this [gestures at map] was agricultural land. All ofthis back here was bean fields and peach orchards, the Chase Garden area, by Autsen, all of that was farmland … Diamond Canneries was here, and beats, com, and beans were staples. I mean, you had trucks rolling during the growing season like mad. There was no such thing as kids not having any work. And all ofthis area over here [gestures at map], and going out River Road you had nuts, peach orchards, you had all kinds ofthings like that. And they grew things like tomatoes and cucumbers. This is some of the most fertile land in the country, where all the housing is now, across Ferry Street Bridge. On the West 11 th site, where his best friends, the Nettles, moved: They came here because ofthe logging industry, and they weren’t able to get a job so they got stuck. They were hoping to work in the lumber industry, period. 118 Mark O. Hatfield did serve as U.S. Senator from 1967 to 1997, but he was attending Stanford University during Ferry Street’s peak era [in 1947 and 1948]. He returned to Salem, Oregon to teach political science from 1949 to 1955 at Willamette University. In 1951, he was first elected to the Oregon State House of Representatives. See the Mark O. Hatfield biography on the website ofWillamette University’s Mark O. Hatfield Library: http://1ibrary.willametle.edu/about/hatfield_bio/. [Accessed August 6,2009]. 87 They didn’t know anything about Eugene or Springfield. Except they knew they were hiring like mad for the lumber industry. Mills were going up everywhere. Q: And they still couldn’t find work? A: Nope. Turned down… When people moved from the Ferry Street Bridge area to the W. 11 th area, we were on county property. And when they moved to W. 11 th, they had to work it out where people could own the piece ofland. But it was still outside the city limits, and it was land that nobody else wanted… That whole area out there, people didn’t farm on it. It was unproductive land. If you drive past 18th now, and that area where you see fields and no houses, you notice that nobody grows anything out there. Surely, over time, as you go back, people tried to farm and to grow stuff, but evidently, the land out there just didn’t produce. Too hard to farm. MATTIE REYNOLDS Ms. Mattie Reynolds is the last living member ofthe original generation of Ferry Street neighbors. She remembers moving her two children to Oregon in December 1942 and being relocated multiple times before settling across the bridge, where Sam Reynolds built a square three-bedroom house out ofthe lumber from his own sawmill. When the county reclaimed the property, the Reynolds family moved to West 11 th, where regular flooding meant that someone had to come to the site and rescue the children while the adults stayed and weathered the storms. She tells the following story of arriving in Eugene and trying to find housing: Sam came to Eugene and met a lumberman by the name of Mr. Spicer, and he asked Sam ifhe wanted ajob at the sawmill. So Sam told him, yeah. And the man said, ‘Just as soon as we can find you a place to live, I’ll send a truck to move you all,’ which he did. The man came to move us, and he moved us out there on 6th Street to a rooming house. And when we got there and started unloading the truck, the landlord came and told us, ‘Well, I’m sorry. I thought I was renting to your boss and we don’t rent to colored people.’ So then they took us over by Four Corners to a motel out there and put us up in the motel-and asked us not to let the kids go outside. Well, OK. That’s well and good. So then we found us a place downtown on Pearl Street right between 6th and i h • And we were moving in the 88 back door and white folks were moving out the front. So, OK. We stayed there for about two weeks, and he found us a house out there on i h and Van Buren. So we move in there. So when we moved in there, some person came by and asked me, were we in the service, the Army? We told him no. He said, ‘Well, you all better try to get somewhere because you can’t stay here.’ And they would come and bring bikes over, put them on our lawn and break them up because my two kids were there, see, and they would say they were stolen bikes. But the police didn’t believe them. We had to have protection around our house over there on 7th Street. So, OK. Finally, Sam and two more white men bought a sawmill out on Lorane Highway, so we moved out there. And we stayed out there until we went broke, and the sawmill got taken away from us. So then, Sam built us a house. We built a house over across the Ferry Street Bridge, and that’s where we stayed until the county put us offthe land. There were, I’d say, about six or seven black families over there. Throughout these oral histories, Willie Mims and members of the Reynolds family would mention other families: the Nettles, the Johnsons, the Washingtons, the Stubbs, the Henrys and others. Many ofthe original family members have moved away or passed away, and the details of their settlement in Eugene are harder to verify. For the sake ofthis study, these three subjects are the only local former residents of Ferry Street who are willing to discuss their history. However, their accounts, which differ in a few areas, may differ from other accounts. WHAT IS MISSING While the previously mentioned texts and interviews provide a great deal of information, they by no means represent all that is known or all that has been produced in relation to Eugene’s early African-American community. Some key documents may yet 89 emerge to further our understanding. Below are examples oftexts and resources still being sought.
Some ofthe High Street neighborhood retains much of its integrity and the neighborhood’s historic homes are well maintained and valued for their 19th and early 20th century styles. The Mims family still owns the two historic homes they purchased in 1948, and one ofthose homes, now known as the Annie D. Guesthouse, has been a local historic landmark since 1979. While the Mims family has retained their property, we know from the Reynolds family that other African-Americans were relocated to accommodate two different public projects: the construction ofthe Campbell Center, a community gathering place for adults 55 and older, and the new Federal Courthouse. This series ofrelocations seemed to regularly target city neighborhoods where AfricanAmerican families gathered. Glenwood, the second site ofresettlement, receives less attention in the written record. Contemporary sources from Ferry Street never lived there, but the site’s settlement is described by the League of Women Voters as follows: “A number of others found small shacks for high rent in the Glenwood district in an alley off of S. Concord Ave. Although some plumbing and repairs have been added, these Glenwood homes are very small and are crowded close together.” 126 Another description emerges from the Oakley Glenn report: There was no thought to integrating the Eugene community. In the mean time, a small group of black families had moved into the Glenwood community that lies between Eugene and Springfield. This area was inhabited by low income whites, 126 LWV, Negro in Eugene, 3. 98 most of whom had lived in the area for some time. The black families were accepted but ignored. There were few incidents ofracial tension in this area. 127 The West 11 th Ave. site received the majority ofthe attention from the surrounding Eugene community. The new residents visibly struggled to build their homes on land with no running water, no relief from the frequent floods on Amazon Creek, and no city services. Conditions at this location were so deplorable that members ofthe general public were finally moved to address issues of housing and employment for Eugene’s black residents. The Ferry Street community, while equally challenged, never attracted the same level ofsupport and concern from Eugene’s progressive community.
Residents at Ferry Street generally came from the South. The Reynolds family was from Shreveport, Louisiana, the Mims family was from Texas, and Willie C. Mims remembers that the Nettles family was from Arkansas. The Washingtons, who always lived in town and not at Ferry Street, but were very close to the community, were also from Arkansas. 132 These families generally came in hopes of improving their employment opportunities, or, as in the case of Sam Reynolds, to escape potential retaliation against himself or his family after an altercation with a white man. 133 Though the site has become closely identified with Eugene’s black community, the Willakenzie Report, referenced earlier, defines the location as a location for farm worker families. 134 Photos collected by EWEB show that the site did have a history of occupation, even before the Ferry Street families arrived. One such photo from 1932 (Figure 4.2 below) shows three shacks lined up and facing the river. They appear to be located near the foot of a bridge or bridge supports. These are assumed to be portions ofthe Ferry Street Bridge. 131 Willie C. Mims, interviewed by the author, March 25, 2009. 132 Wright and Pinyerd, Eugene Modernism 1935-1965. 133 Lyllye Parker, interviewed by the author, April 2009. 134 Johnson, Willakenzie Historic Context, 41. 101 Figure 4.2: Eugene’s “Hobo Camp,” 1932 This photo, courtesy ofthe Eugene Water and Electric Board, was captioned as follows: “No. 1234, Flood ofMarch 19, 1932. Looking downstream along north side ofNew Filter Plant toward hobo camp. By C. A. McClain.” The Ferry Street village site was prone to extreme flooding, a situation that was being rectified just as the land was cleared and the Ferry Street families relocated. Dams were under construction in numerous places to create a consistent riverbank and more robust flood control, leading some to speculate that the land became increasingly valuable while the black community at Ferry Street grew, creating a catalyst for commercial redevelopment. This is speculation, however, and has not been verified. We do know that the bridge reconstruction project predates African-American settlement, which seems to dispute this possible interpretation. Though flooding was a problem for the Ferry Street residents, it also predated them. Long time Eugenian Lloyd Bissell remembers rescuing approximately five or six 102 people from this site in the early 1942. 135 He remembers that some ofthe evacuees carried camping tents, but that they were not African-American. Like the Willakenzie report, Bissell associated the squatting families with the nearby farms and not with African-American settlement. If early settlers did live in tents on the land, then the name “Tent City” may have predated the black community as well. As a nickname, “Tent City” has always offended the Reynolds family.136 They remember none of the houses being covered with tarps or tents. The only structure they remember with a tent roof was the Ferry Street Chapel. Though a permanent church was built at the West 11th Ave. location, the Ferry Street families created a wood framed building that was covered by a tightly fit canvas roof and added a sign saying “Ferry Street Chapel.” The single known picture, included below in Figure 4.3, shows a number of interesting details. The frame ofthe structure was at least partially clad in horizontal planks. The crawl space beneath the structure appears to be covered by vertical planks, and the approach to the building appears to be fairly flat and solid, as if a narrow concrete sidewalk had been laid. The tent roof appears to be crafted specifically to fit the hip-roof structure and seems to form tight seals around the doors and around the bottom. All together, the structure appears to be carefully and tightly constructed. Since the settlement appeared directly after the end ofthe war, it is possible the tent roofs were actually Army surplus tents that were reused. Ifso, the frames may have been built specifically for them
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The next wave.