National and Oregon Chronology of Events

Painting of approximately 4 dozen white men gathered in a field in the Oregon Country.
The historic May 1843 Champoeg meeting where trappers and settlers voted to form a provisional government for the Oregon Country. This mural by Barry Faulkner is in the House Chamber in the Oregon State Capitol. Enlarge image
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.

The seal of the provisional government with an eagle atop a sheild with 3 flags coming out of each side.
The Provisional Government seal in the Oregon State Capitol. Enlarge image

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A Provisional Government legislative committee repealed actions relating to slavery.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.

Painting of 2 men in a field. 1 man picks up armfulls of wheat while the other rides a piece of farm equipment pulled by horses.
The Donation Land Act of 1850 drew settlers to Oregon searching for the agrarian dream.

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.

Drawings of Cayuse Indians with long hair.
Cayuse Indians Tiloukaikt and Tomahas led the attack on the Whitman Mission in 1847. Blacks were not alone in suffering persecution.

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.
Photo of Abraham Lincoln in suit and tie.
Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. He was assassinated less than five years later.

1854

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.

Painting of Fort Sumter on fire and burning. Streaks through the sky represent artillery fire raining down.
Tensions between the North and the South finally broke out into open rebellion in 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

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.

1862

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.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Enlarge image

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.

Faded yellow paper with flowing cursive writing of the amendments. The heading in the center says "Article XIV" for article 14.
The Fourteenth Amendment made Oregon's exclusion clause moot. Learn more about the Fourteenth Amendment via the Legal Information Institute. Enlarge image

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.