Fieldwork Coordinator Update – Mar, 2018


Fieldwork Update for March, 2018

Date of Activity / Lesson:

March, 2018


City Hall, Clinton Street Theater


Why is Portland the whitest big city in America? What are the historical trends behind the Black Lives Matter movement? Why is there a police oversight committee in Portland?


If you’re looking for answers to any of these questions, just ask a sixth grader– they know! For the past two and half months, Lisa’s class delved deep into the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s and the roots of racism in America. Then, with the help of dozens of photos, newspaper articles, and other primary documents, students worked as historians to learn the history of Portland through the African American experience.


To help with this study, several experts visited the classroom including JoAnn Hardesty, the former director of the NAACP (who is now running for city council), Diane Hess from the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Donovan Smith, founder of Gentrification is Weird, and Donna Maxey, creator of Race Talks. Destinee Magnum spoke with the students about her encounter with Jeremy Christian, who stabbed 3 upstanders on the Max last year. Students also visited the Oregon Historical Society’s exhibit Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years curated by the Oregon Black Pioneers, they visited the Independent Police Review Division at City Hall, and attended a private screening of Selma at the Clinton Street Theater. One of the high points of the trimester was the full-day scavenger hunt, where students traveled around the city in small groups to visit significant places in Portland’s African-American history. As always, students most appreciated meeting Izora Green of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church who shared tales of growing up in Vanport and showed them where Martin Luther King Jr. once stood and addressed the congregation.


Inspired by learning about current events and knowing our history, the students concluded the unit by writing letters to either The Oregonian, Mayor Ted Wheeler, Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, or Portland city council members about a current event they care about. Topics include segregated schools, gun control, homelessness, gentrification, police brutality, and more.


Lisa has been refining her curriculum on the black history of Portland every year. This summer, the curriculum will be published and disseminated to all teachers across Oregon. This essential part of Oregon history has been hidden too long, and with the adoption of Oregon’s new ethnic studies social studies standards, it is the perfect time for us to share what we have developed with other teachers and students in the state. Thank you to Lisa for being an innovator in social studies curriculum development and kudos to our students for undertaking the unit with honest curiosity and open hearts.

Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

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