Race, Disaster and Displacement in Vanport, Oregon
Vanport, Oregon, was created in 1942 as a huge public housing project to accommodate thousands of workers who had flocked to the region to work for the wartime industries. Erected between the city limits of Portland, Oregon, and the Columbia River on reclaimed bottom lands, Vanport was entirely inundated by a flood in 1948 and never rebuilt. At that time some 18,000 people, down from the wartime peak of 40,000, still lived in Vanport, many of them African Americans. While the fate of Vanport’s “flood refugees” has been almost completely ignored for decades, there has been a surge in “memory activism” in the more recent past. This talk will highlight the intersections of marginalized communities and marginal environments, it will address cultural encounters with the legacy of displacement and reflect on issues of environmental justice and disaster memory.
Image: “Refugees, 1948”, Oregon Historical Society, Neg. OrHi 90163.