Oregon has the notorious distinction of being the only state admitted to the Union with a Black exclusion law in its state Bill of Rights. The law prohibited Blacks from owning property, making contracts, and from even being within state borders. Although it was generally not enforced, the message was clear—Oregon was for whites only.

Willamette Street, 1921

Image credit: Old Oregon Photographs

A Shadow Over Eugene

In the 1920s, Oregon had the highest Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership per capita in the United States—and Eugene had one of Oregon’s strongest groups. The Eugene Klan regularly marched through downtown and burned crosses on Skinner Butte. The legacy of the Skinner Butte KKK gatherings continues to cast a shadow over the city of Eugene and the Black community to this day.

The KKK presented itself as a group promoting “100% Americanism” and patriotism—themes we hear echoed by white supremacist groups today. The Klan targeted not only African Americans, but also Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.

Flyer reading Big Parade and Initiation Ceremonies by Ku Klux Klan Saturday June 28th at 8:30 P.M. 1924. Leaving the fair grounds the line of march will be east on eleventh to Willamette, North on Wilamette to 5th and West to Blair, South to Fair Grounds. Several bands will furnish music. Public invited to the Grandstand to watch Initiation Ceremonies beginning at 9 o'clock. Grants Pass Drill Team will put on the work. C. R. Mathis, the Imperial Lecturer for the Realm of Oregon will give an address before the ceremonies. As the parade heads down Willamette Street, watch for the fire works on the Butte. M.J. Thompson, Secretary

The Eugene Morning Register (later named The Register-Guard) was originally owned by a Klansman. On June 27, 1924 an ad was placed in the newspaper advertising a KKK parade at the Lane County Fairgrounds the next day.

Image credit: Register Guard Archives
Historic photo of KKK Rally in Lane County

An undated Klan meeting held in Lane County, Oregon

Image credit: Historical Society Research Library bb002120



Black Neighborhoods