PSU senior capstone tour highlights Portland’s Black women activists and leaders

Golden West Hotel

This Black History Month, we were inspired by a Portland heritage tour of African American women activists and community leaders from 1900-1940, created by a University Studies Monumental Women senior capstone back in 2014. Each of these stops around downtown Portland are rich with history:

Culture Club

The Culture Club was once the headquarters for a philanthropic African American’s women’s group.

The Culture Club, a philanthropic African American women’s group, once organized social events at this location, which is now home to The West End Ballroom,. 1220 SW Taylor St.

Golden West

This was the first hotel to accommodate African American patrons, providing services to railroad and hotel workers who were denied accommodations in white-only businesses. From 1906 through 1931, it served as a social center and focal point of the Black community. 707 NW Everett Ave.

Bethel A.M.E. Church

Bethel AME Church, Portland, Oregon, 1957
Courtesy City of Portland Archives

The oldest continuously operating Black church in Portland, the church has served as a place of worship and a social center for its members — a place for race relation discussions, civil rights activism, and cultural performances of visiting artists and musicians. 5828 NE 8th Ave.

Mt. Olivet First Baptist Church

Mt. Olivet First Baptist Church

Though the congregation has since moved to a larger space, Mt. Olivet has been a religious and social center for community members and was a location for meetings and rallies by civil rights groups and visiting leaders. Portland’s Colored Women’s Equal Suffrage Association held meetings here. 1734 NE 1st Ave.

Williams Avenue YWCA

Williams Avenue YWCA
Courtesy Multnomah County Library Archives

The Williams Ave. branch of the YWCA was established in 1921 at the insistence of African American women. It served the interests of their community through race-relation work, confidence building, and ethnic pride during a time of overt discrimination. Since 1959, it’s been home to the Billy Webbs Elks Lodge, an African American fraternal organization. 6 N Tillamook St.

NAACP Office & Federal Credit Union

Otto Rutherford (right) and his daughter Charlotte Rutherford, next to him, stand with members of the NAACP Credit Union, which was initially managed from the Rutherford’s home on Shaver Street in the Albina Neighborhood.

The Rutherford house is on the Oregon State Historic Preservation list.

Courtesy Multnomah County Library Archives

The Portland chapter of the NAACP, founded in 1914, helped repeal state exclusion laws in 1926 and 1927, established African American presence in labor unions, and worked to repeal discriminatory real estate codes and housing policies. The NAACP often met at the Williams Ave YMCA and the credit union operated out of the Rutherfords’ home for many years before moving to this location in 1964, where they remained for many decades.
2752 N Williams Ave.

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