Oregon’s Legacy Of Racism

Thanks for your recent story about the Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s exhibit, “Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years — The Eugene Story” (Eugene Weekly cover story, 11/21). Oregon is often thought of as a relatively liberal/progressive state. However, too few of us fully understand the legacies of prejudice and racism that once ruled our communities.

For me, the most arresting image in the exhibition is a 1920s photo showing a white cross atop Skinner’s Butte, beneath which are three large letters in white: “KKK.” Imagine the shadow cast every day over the pioneering Black families who had to live, work and worship beneath those letters.

Please visit the MNCH and learn about the long struggle for equality and civil rights in Eugene-Springfield and Oregon. We are proud to provide a forum where members of some of those strong families can share their stories. As Americans, we can all actively and respectively debate how far we have come as a civil society since those dark days — and where we should go from here — but we should do so with knowledge, not ignorance.

The need for “Racing to Change” was demonstrated soon after it opened, when a large poster that declared “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” was placed on the museum’s front door. The poster came from a white nationalist website that encouraged supporters to place them on campuses nationwide.

We need to continue talking about the past, present and future of equality and justice in our communities. Please join the conversation at the MNCH.

Jon Erlandson, Executive Director

Museum of Natural and Cultural History