How was life in Vanport, Oregon? Depending on who tells the story, the new town built to accommodate migrant workers was either an experiment in racial integration or “a nasty, segregated ghetto.”
Vanport, the State’s second largest city and the largest WWII federal public housing project in the United States became home to 40,000 people from 1942 to 1948. When the Columbia River flooded on May 1948, in a single day Vanport was erased from the map and much of Oregon’s memory.
Vanport Mosaic aims to change that. For the past three years, we’ve been capturing the vivid memories of former Vanport residents and produced close to 30 short documentaries. With hundreds of people attending the screenings, and a growing number of community partners, volunteers, and supporters, the project has grown into a collective effort that culminated into the inaugural Vanport Mosaic, last May. Over 2000 people attended four days of historical and artistic tributes, and educational events in Portland. “Vanport: Surge Of Social Change,” the exhibit co-curated by Oregon Black Pioneers, featured photos, news clips, artifacts, and, of course, oral histories, providing a window into the richness of the social and community life that so much shaped Portland and Oregon.
Author: Laura Lo Forti