With the opening of the Broadway Bridge in 1913, African American families from NW Portland moved east and bought homes in the Albina district – the only area that was open to them owing to redlining by the Portland Realty Board. By 1920, 62% of Portland’s African Americans residents, and 80% of African American families with children, lived near Williams Avenue, and Black social life began to revolve around businesses on Russell Street and Williams Avenue.
At its height, Vanport housed 40,000 residents, making it the second largest city in Oregon, a home to the workers in Portland's shipyards and their families. A 1948 flood washed it away, and its Black residents into inner N/NE Portland
Williams Avenue became known as “the Black Broadway,” owing to the many clubs where nationally known African American jazz musicians performed. In the 1950s, Williams Avenue was a thriving main street of African American businesses. But like many African American districts around the country, the Albina district was subjected in the 1960s and 70s to discriminatory urban renewal efforts.
With country-wide efforts of urban renewal came changes for the N Williams Black community. Family homes and business were labeled as being "blighted" though they were well kept and patronized. Hundreds of homes, businesses and churches were razed to make way for freeways, Emanuel Hospital expansion, and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
N Williams is changing. A lot. What many now living, working and playing in the area don’t know is that for the majority of the 20th century, N Williams/Albina was Portland’s largest African American community. Our goal is to highlight this history, through a multimedia public art project. Help us by sharing your stories, memories, and histories. We are also seeking pictures, recorded interviews, videos etc. to be included as part of the project.