A Force for Change
Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936
Publication Year: 2010
Between 1912 and 1936, Cannady tirelessly promoted interracial goodwill and fought segregation and discrimination. She gave hundreds of lectures to high school and college students and shared her message with radio listeners across the Pacific Northwest. She was assistant editor, and later publisher, of The Advocate, Oregon’s largest African American newspaper. Cannady was the first black woman to graduate from law school in Oregon, and the first to run for state representative. She held interracial teas in her home in Northeast Portland and protested repeated showings of the racist film The Birth of a Nation. And when the Ku Klux Klan swept into Oregon, she urged the governor to act quickly to protect black Oregonians’ right to live and work without fear. Despite these accomplishments, Beatrice Cannady fell into obscurity when she left Oregon in the late 1930s.
A Force for Change illuminates Cannady’s key role in advocating for better race relations in Oregon in the early decades of the twentieth century. It describes her encounters with the period’s leading black artists, editors, politicians, and intellectuals, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, A. Philip Randolph, Oscar De Priest, Roland Hayes, and James Weldon Johnson. It dispels the myth that African Americans played little part in Oregon’s history and it enriches our understanding of the black experience in Oregon and the civil rights movement across the country.
Published by: Oregon State University Press
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Beatrice Morrow Cannady was one of Oregon’s most dynamic civil rights activists. Between 1912 and 1936, she gave hundreds of lectures to high school and college students about the importance of better race relations. She used the new medium of radio to share her message of interracial goodwill with listeners in the Pacific...
Chapter One: From Texas to Oregon
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In 1883, a former slave named Jackson Morrow donated a parcel of land he had been given by his owner, Christopher Hamilton McGinnis, for a new town.1 But it was not named in his honor; instead, the site eighteen miles northeast of Austin, Texas, was called Littig, for a former employee of the Houston and Central Texas Railway...
Chapter Two: The Advocate: It Is Your Mouthpiece
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Portland resident Phil Reynolds and his wife, Elise, weren’t the only ones who felt they could no longer do without the Advocate in 1927.2 That year, Lincoln High School took out a one-year subscription for its library and the Baldwin restaurant began offering...
Chapter Three: The Best Talent
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A few weeks before the noted tenor Roland Hayes performed in Portland in 1919, the Telegram noted: “With the firm purpose of establishing generally a bigger demand by her own people for classical works and to create a better relation between the two...
Chapter Four: Building a Community
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Cannady was adamant about the need to promote Portland as a vibrant, livable place, so she continually reminded people of their duty to their city and its black citizens. “When a fellow boosts his own town he does not stop there; he is performing an act that....
Chapter Five: We Must Cultivate One Another
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In February 1928, in the midst of a rainy Portland winter, Beatrice Cannady received a brief, typewritten note from NAACP Secretary James Weldon Johnson: “I am writing you as a representative woman of the race to extend to you a cordial invitation to...
Chapter Six: Spreading the Word
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Radio was an increasingly popular form of entertainment and information in Oregon, and across the United States, in the 1920s. Governmental restrictions on the use of radio waves during World War I had been lifted, and David Sarnoff’s dream of...
Chapter Seven: The Birth of a Nation
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The nation’s first full-length motion picture featured a cast of eighteen thousand people, including the rising star Lillian Gish, took eight months to complete, and by some accounts cost a reported $500,000 to make—a staggering sum for 1915.1 Although some reviewers...
Chapter Eight: Oregon Was a Klan State
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“Many speakers have come to Portland, made their impressions and gone on their journey,” Cannady wrote in the Advocate in May 1923. But none, she observed, had “made a deeper and more lasting impression for good upon the minds and hearts of the people....
Chapter Nine: Standing Firm
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Discrimination because of color was the constant that tied together years of Advocate articles and editorials and illustrated an important reality of interracial relations in Oregon during the early 1900s. Even when Beatrice Cannady was not discussing overt racism,.....
Chapter Ten: In the Interest of the Race
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In the middle of February 1919, W. E. B. Du Bois convened a Pan-African Congress in Paris. The location and timing were no accident: the Versailles Peace Conference was under way at nearby locations and Du Bois hoped to use his meeting to draw attention....
Conclusion: Public Citizen
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Portlanders were happy to shed the city’s rough-and-tumble façade in 1905 and replace it with images of “prosperity and progress.”1 That year, more than 1.5 million visitors attended the Lewis and Clark Exposition and saw a city that was set to tame its landscape...
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Soon after I “discovered” Beatrice Cannady in 2002, I read a short article about her and Seattle activist Susie Revels Cayton by Quintard Taylor, a professor of history at the University...
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Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2010