A recent Columbian story asked: “What’s it been like for blacks to live in Vancouver and Portland?” A portion of this answer can be found in that Feb. 3 story “‘In White America’ seasoned with local recollections.” As noted by Pat Jollota, “A generation in Clark County has grown up unaware of the struggles and courage of the early African American families in Clark County.”
In 2012, the NAACP Vancouver Branch 1139 sponsored the First Families Project. From this grew the publication “First Families of Vancouver’s African American Community, From World War Two to the Twenty-First Century,” authored by Jane Elder Wulff, relating first-person stories of coming to Vancouver during World War II, what they found and why they stayed. “Housing in War and Peace — The Story of Public Housing in Vancouver, Washington” is also another excellent resource.
The Vancouver Housing Authority’s role was to operate housing for thousands of people who came to Vancouver to work in the Kaiser Shipyards. After the war, the authority played a major role by providing shelter for returning veterans and industry employees who had chosen to live in Vancouver. I recommend both publications to anyone who is interested in learning more about black history in white America.
Ceci Ryan Smith