These significant events, both nationally and in Oregon, affected the lives of blacks during the years of 1840 to 1870:
May 2, 1843
Oregon settlers meet in Champoeg to create a provisional government to last until “such time as the United States of America can extend their jurisdiction over us.”
July 5, 1843
Oregon settlers meet again in Champoeg and pass a temporary blueprint for the provisional government including “The Organic Laws of Oregon,” which prohibit slavery.
June 18, 1844
The Provisional Government passes Oregon’s first black exclusion law. It states that blacks who tried to settle in Oregon would be publicly whipped – thirty-nine lashes, repeated every six months – until they left Oregon.
December 19, 1844
Exclusion law is changed. Blacks who tried to settle in Oregon would not be whipped; instead, they would be forced to do public labor.
July 3, 1845
A Provisional Government legislative committee repealed actions relating to slavery.
June 15, 1846
Secretary of State (and future president) James Buchanan signs the Treaty of Oregon, ending a 28-year joint occupation of Oregon by the United States and Great Britain.
August 14, 1848
Oregon becomes a U.S. territory.
September 21, 1849
The Oregon Territorial Legislature enacts an exclusion law that prohibits “…negro or mulatto to enter into, or reside within the limits of this Territory.” However, Negroes or Mulattoes and their children, already living in the Territory were not subject to this law.
September 18, 1850
Congress passes the Donation Land Act, giving free land to white settlers.
September 2, 1851
Oregon’s 1849 exclusion law is enforced against Jacob Vanderpool, the only instance of an African American being expelled under one of Oregon’s exclusion laws.
May 1, 1854
Oregon “inadvertently” repeals its 1849 exclusion law.
The Legislature bars testimony of “Negroes, mulattoes, and Indians, or persons one half or more of Indian blood,” in proceedings involving a white person.
March 6, 1857
The United States Supreme Court, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, rules that a negro, whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen, and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in federal territories.
November 9, 1857
Oregon voters approve the Oregon constitution, which bans both slavery, and blacks from living in Oregon. It makes it illegal for blacks to own real estate, make contracts, vote, or use the legal system.
February 14, 1859
Oregon becomes the 33rd state, admitted as an anti-slavery state and the only state admitted with an “exclusionary clause.”
November 6, 1860
Abraham Lincoln elected President.
April 12, 1861
Civil War begins.
October 21, 1861
United States Senator from Oregon, Edward Dickinson Baker, is killed fighting in the Civil War. A close friend of Abraham Lincoln’s, Lincoln had named his second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, after the senator.
May 20, 1862
President Lincoln signs Homestead Act.
Oregon Legislature passes law banning interracial marriage and institutes a $5.00 annual tax on Blacks, Chinese, Hawaiians (Kanakas), and Mulattos. Those unable to pay had to perform road maintenance.
January 1, 1863
Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, freeing slaves in Confederate States.
January 13, 1865
Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Both Oregon senators, Benjamin Franklin Harding and James Nesmith, vote for the amendment; Nesmith is one of only two Democratic senators to support the amendment. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Oregon’s only representative, John McBride, also votes for the amendment.
April 9, 1865
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.
April 19, 1865
Lincoln is assassinated.
June 13, 1866
Congress passes the Fourteenth Amendment:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
September 19, 1866
Oregon ratifies the Fourteenth Amendment. The amendment renders Oregon’s exclusion clause irrelevant, although it remains in the state constitution until 1926.
June 19, 1868
Letitia Carson certifies her homestead claim in Douglas County.
October 16, 1868
Oregon rescinds its ratification of the 14th Amendment.
February 26, 1869
Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
February 3, 1870
The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. Despite Oregon’s inaction on ratifying, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that African Americans could vote because the amendment was the law of the land.