Project focuses on oral histories of African-American porters


Oregon State University’s Libraries and Press has been awarded a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to transfer the oral histories of African-American railroad porters to digital form.

 The $5,000 grant will support the digitization of oral histories that came to OSU’s Valley Library in 2014 and form the African American Railroad Porter Oral History Collection, 1983-92. The historic recordings offer insight into the lives of African-Americans in Oregon in the early and mid-20 century, a time when job opportunities for African-American males were largely limited to service-related jobs.

 This collection is made up of 29 reel-to-reel sound recordings containing interviews between filmmaker Michael Grice and African-American railroad porters employed in the Portland area. The recordings form much of the background research used for Grice's 1985 film, "Black Families and the Railroad in Oregon and the Northwest."

 “The information gained through the interviews can be used to broaden the level of understanding of how African-Americans played a significant role in the social and economic changes to the Portland area and the state as a whole during the 20th century,” said Natalia Fernández, curator and archivist with the Oregon Multicultural Archives at Oregon State University’s Valley Library.

 “The stories shared have the potential to deepen public knowledge and appreciation of the African-American experience and perspective in Oregon.”

 The grant project will include the creation of Web pages to feature the oral histories. The interview audio and transcripts will be available online to researchers, students, teachers and the general public.



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