Oregon History on Film!

Two Must See DVDs regarding Oregon History

Both of these films, The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon: 1920-1923 and The Oregon Nikkei Story: Japanese Americans in Oregon 1880-1941 were created by Portland Filmmaker Thomas Coulter through his production company Frame by Frame Productions.

Ku Klux Klan Parade Albany, Oregon – Source: Oregon Historical Society Neg. #52782

Coulter begins The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon: 1920-1923 by tracing the history of racism in Oregon, especially citing the various Exclusion Laws passed during the mid-to-late 1800s, and explains the origins of the KKK in the South. In the early 1920s the second generation of the Klan hosted numerous meetings and parades and established itself in Oregon financially and politically both in the Willamette Valley and the coastal towns. The KKK had widespread appeal; for example, in December of 1921 6,000 gathered in Portland to listen to lectures presented by Klan members.

The documentary addresses the racial issues behind the development and activities of “the invisible empire” and Coulter also highlights the lesser known aspects of the Klan including the women of the KKK, the Klan’s views on the Volstead Act (Prohibition), and the predominantly Protestant Klan members’ opposition to the Catholic Church, especially  regarding education.

Guest Scholars:
Darrell Millner, Professor of Black Studies, Portland State University
Fr. Lawrence Saalfeld, Author Forces of Prejudice
Eckard Toy, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon
Mark Monroe Sweetland, Former Oregon State Senator
Charles Wallace, Professor of Religion, Willamette University
Linda Tamura, Professor of Education, Willamette University

Archives Referenced:
Library of Congress
National Archives
Benton County Historical Museum
Marion County Historical Museum
Oregon Historical Society
Salem Public Library Photo Collection
University of Texas
Idaho Historical Society Museum
State of Oregon Library
Prelinger Archives

Japanese Restaurant Workers, Portland, Oregon – Source: George Katagiri

The Oregon Nikkei Story: Japanese Americans in Oregon 1880-1941 begins by explaining the circumstances in both the United States and Japan that led to mass emigrations of Japanese laborers to the United States during the late 1800s. The Japanese immigrants worked for railroad companies, canneries, and lumber mills; and some owned businesses such as restaurants and barber shops.   

Various guest scholars and community members describe personal family histories and cover topics such as: the poor living conditions and pay the Japanese laborers endured, the “Picture Bride” practice and the lives of Japanese women in Oregon, the Ku Klux Klan and its effect on the Japanese-American community, and the Toledo Incident of 1925 in which a group of Japanese workers filed suit and won against the leaders of a mob of townspeople that attacked them in the coastal lumber town of Toledo.

Guest Scholars and Community Members:
George Kataguri, Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
Linda Tamura, Professor of Education, Willamette University
Homer Yasui, Hood River, Oregon
Tom Yoshikai, Salem, Oregon
George Azumano, Portland, Oregon

Archives Referenced:
Hatfield Library
Marion County Historical Society
Oregon State Library
Multnomah County Library
Oregon Historical Society
Lincoln County Historical Society
Knight Library
Prelinger Archives
Library of Congress

And now, both films are available for check out through the Library!

The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon: 1920-1923 ~ Media 5th Floor (HS2330.K63 2009)

The Oregon Nikkei Story: Japanese Americans in Oregon 1880-1941 ~ Media 5th Floor (F885.J3 O74 2009)

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