SOP 11 – Black Pioneers on the Oregon Trail

by | SOP 11

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Written records, journals, and oral histories have given us an incredibly detailed understanding of the individuals and families who headed west on the Oregon Trail; what they ate, how they survived, even what they did to make butter while on the trail! But there is one group of pioneers who we still know very little about – the African Americans who traveled the trail. What might it have been like to come to Oregon, the only state in the union to paradoxically declare itself a free state, while also having black exclusion laws on the books? And who are some of the black pioneers that came to the Pacific Northwest and forever changed this place, its people, and history? Join Zachary Stocks as he shares stories of African Americans on the trail and in the Gorge, and find out why there’s still so much of this history yet to be uncovered.

Oregon Black Pioneers is Oregon’s only historical society dedicated to preserving and presenting the experiences of African Americans statewide. Since 1993, the organization has illuminated the seldom-told history of people of African descent in Oregon – inspired by the tenacity of Black Oregonians who have faced discrimination and hardship to make a life for themselves here over the past 400 years. In order to honor the sacrifices made by those individuals, Oregon Black Pioneers seeks to remember their stories and share them with the public.

Zachary Stocks is a public historian, educator, and museum professional from Astoria. Zachary has interpreted the experiences of people of African descent in the Pacific Northwest for over 5 years. He is a former staff member of the Northwest African American Museum and Historical Seaport, a volunteer interpretive ranger at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and is the new Executive Director of Oregon Black Pioneers, the state’s African American Historical Society.