Oregon Black Pioneers Awarded the 2017 George McMath Historic Preservation Award

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Each year, the University of Oregon presents the George McMath Award. The McMath award  celebrates a leader who has made significant contributions to historic preservation in the state of Oregon. The organization was nominated by the Former First Lady of Oregon, Mary Oberst  who wrote in her nomination letter, “Oregon Black Pioneers is a group of trailblazers—illuminating corners of Oregon history that have never seen the light.”

The purpose of the award is to:

  • Honor and celebrate the legacy of George McMath
  • Raise awareness of historic preservation in Oregon
  • Recognize significant leaders in the field
  • Promote excellence in preservation practice
  • Recognize individual and group preservation contributions to the state’s historic landscape
  • Build partnerships between the professional and academic communities to enhance the field of preservation

On May 17, 2017, Oregon Black Pioneers will be the first organization to receive this prestigious award. Their work will be acknowledged in a publication and on the University website.

Board President Willie Richardson talks about the contributions made by black pioneers state-wide.

My goal for the Oregon Black Pioneers is to see the organization continue to move forward in its mission of researching the history of African Americans in Oregon; working to ensure that this history is captured and made available to the broader public in accessible forms such as exhibits, travel tours, virtual museum, etc.; and that the contribution of African Americans is included in the telling of the Oregon story,” says Board President Willie Richardson.

Oregon Black Pioneers’ researchers have been documenting areas around the state that have been centers of African American population.  The long-term goal of the research the organization does is to assist the State Historic Preservation Office in preparing a multiple property document for the whole state.

Their work has been recognized by historic and public affairs organizations in across Oregon. In 2010, American Legacy magazine recognized the organization with the Heritage Award.

The organization has begun creating partnerships with museums around the state to highlight the stories of Oregon’s Black Pioneers. Linn County Historical Museum recently unveiled “Telling Untold Stories: Linn County’s Black Pioneers“. The group has also been contacted by The End of the Oregon Trail Museum in Oregon City to add to the body of work encompassing the lives of black pioneers crossing the Oregon trail.