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What do you get your state for Valentine’s Day? How about a book?

Not a reading bench, but an Oregon bench.

Not a reading bench, but an Oregon bench at the Oregon Historical Society.

A recent article in the Sunday Oregonian’s Arts and Entertainment section highlighted four books about Oregon.

Slavery In The Northwest shows an Oregon past that’s glossed over far too often.

Sure Oregon was a great destination for midwestern farmers on the move.

Did they bring baggage from their original states?

They brought as much a they could fit into their pioneer wagons.

Some brought too much.

From the Oregonian:

“Free Boy, A True Story of Slave and Master” by Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley, about a young slave boy in Olympia, Charles Mitchell, who escapes from his master, published by the University of Washington Press in 2013.

“Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory” by R. Gregory Nokes (this author), concerns the racial history of early Oregon and an 1852 slavery case, Holmes vs Ford, in which a former slave seeks freedom for his children, published in 2013 by Oregon State University Press.

“Worthy Brown’s Daughter” by Phillip Margolin, novel inspired by the Holmes vs. Ford case, published in January by HarperCollins.

“A Light in the Wilderness” by Jane Kirkpatrick, historical fiction about the life of Letitia Carson, a former slave brought to Oregon from Missouri in 1845, who wins an important court case from her deceased white master and husband, scheduled for release in September by Revell of the Baker Publishing Group.

Or make a run to the Portland Park Blocks and the Oregon Historical Society for birthday cake.


Oregon Statehood Day

Friday, February 14

Birthday Cake served at Noon

Free Admission All Day – extended hours, 10 AM – 7 PM

Celebrate Oregon’s birthday in style at a cake cutting at noon on Friday, February 14, at the Oregon Historical Society. Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale will be at OHS to cut Oregon’s birthday cake, generously donated by Baker and Spice. Plus, former Governors Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski will join Lauderdale in a special musical tribute to our great state. Free admission all day!

Put on your birthday hat and join in.




About David Gillaspie


  1. Happy Birthday, Oregon! And thanks for the reading list — the Nokes book looks especially interesting. If you know — the Amazon description of it reads “Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition of slavery in the state, many in Oregon tolerated it and supported politicians who advocated for slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.”

    Is that just an awkward sentence trying to say slavery was banned by the original state constitution, or was it really true that African Americans were banned? Know you’re a history guy, too, so thought you might know — just curious.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Awkward sentence or a keyboard with no period? This might answer your question:

      “Oregon was largely settled by white immigrants who emigrated with their values and prejudices. Passing exclusion laws in an area far removed from sectarian conflict, the majority argued for the freeing and removal of slaves brought to Oregon Territory and favored the avoidance of the race problem altogether through this means.” From

      • Wow, I think that does answer it, thank you — and thanks again for another interesting post.

        • David Gillaspie says:

          Not a pretty picture, but history gets that way. Oregon has changed so much, but some people don’t believe it.

          When JR Rider played for the Portland in the 90’s he said people were still lynching black men thirty miles out of town. But JR had bad history.

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