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.

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