Stories of Oregon Book

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

There’s book on my bedroom shelf with a forest green cover. Black and white lettering spells out Stories of Oregon across the face. You probably won’t find a copy at your library, even if you live in The Beaver State. But this book is one of the only places you’ll find documentation – just a few sentences, but still – of a small yet valuable piece of Oregon’s Black history. Among other “firsts in Oregon,” you’ll see that the first African American school principal was my grandfather, William Roosevelt Gerald Jr. We used to call him Pops.My dad’s family – mom, dad, four sisters – moved to Portland from Prairie View, Texas in 1968. Coming from a predominately Black college town in the South, my family was very aware of the heated racial politics in America. After the death of my Grandmother, my family moved into a Portland neighborhood that was (and still is) fairly rich and very White. But my father insists it wasn’t a big issue for them, despite the racial tension felt around the nation at the time. My grandpa, a decorated Korean War veteran, spent the rest of his life as an administrator in Portland Public Schools, first in primary education and later at the district level. And he was well known within the city’s small Black community. Most older African American Portlanders could tell you who he was. But you won’t find his name in many – if any – history books.Except for the forest green one sitting on my bedroom shelf.

Year: 1968

– Alex

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant