Golden West Project…a model for other communities to follow

African Roots Podcast #72 August 13, 2010

From: Angela Walton-Raji []
Sent: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 8:15 AM
Subject: Golden West to be Featured on African Roots Podcast
Hello Mr. Bennett,
I just wanted to let you know that this Friday, in my weekly podcast for the African Roots Podcast, I shall feature your website in my podcast. My site is the only weekly podcast devoted to African American History and Genealogy, and I have visited your site on Portland’s rich black history.
I update the podcast every week, and you will be able to access it on Friday at anytime at: Seek to 20:57 for Golden West Project
Warm regards,
— Angela Walton-Raji —

Author, lecturer and researcher. Member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma Genealogical Society, Choctaw-Chickasaw Freedman’s Association, Poteau Valley Genealogical Association and PAAC-Preservation of African American Cemeteries

Seek to 20:57 for Golden West Project

African Roots Podcast #72 August 13, 2010

Angela Y. Walton-Raji on August 13th, 2010
This Week’s Pod Cast

Seek to 20:57 for Golden West Project


source: African Roots

I want to direct you to a great website brought to my attention this past week by a young man Mr. Will Bennett from Portland Oregon. The site is called the Golden West Project: Black in Portland History.  He is presenting the history of the city in a great way and he has also brought together other good sites that reflect this rich history of a vibrant community that thrived against the odds.

His site links to a larger site African American Historical District. Another very interesting site was Central City Concern. There is an audio file with two gentlemen recording their own memories of the hotel and life in Portland. The hotel served as a center of African American social life until the hotel’s closure in 1931.  It later reopened again and operated till 1959 as a hotel catering exclusively to a black clientèle.

I mention this site, because much of the data includes information on activities that surrounded the heart of Black social life in Portland, which was the Golden West Hotel—the only hotel that catered to an African American clientele for decades.  Apparently several years ago, the hotel reopened, and serves as a focal point for much of the black history of Portland.  The hotel was built in the19th century, opening originally as the Tremont hotel.  By 1905 it became the largest Pacific Coast hotel that hosted African Americans.  It was the only hotel in Oregon for African Americans for several decades, it was a destination site for many blacks in the community—including it becoming a place to go “after church”, catering to the local community.

I will also point out that the folks in Portland also have a Facebook community.  I found myself learning a lot about Portland and an amazing spirit that seems to come from there.  The websites as well as seeing them on Facebook and in general celebrating their history, is to me a model for others who are documenting their communities. I mention these sites in particular, because they have taken their local history, confronted  it, and presented it online, reflecting the history and challenges of a proud African American community.  It is this kind of site that can become a model for other communities to follow.

Tell the stories, bring out the old photos.  I know that there are many historically black high schools that have closed since the 1960s and many of them have active alumni organizations.  In Ft. Smith Arknasas, there was a recent Lincoln High School reunion.  In Ardmore Oklahoma there is the Dunbar-Douglas Reunion, in places like Muskogee and Tulsa there are reunions for Manual Training High School, and Booker T. Washington, and on and on, throughout the country.  These schools, these churches, these businesses such as the Golden West, were often the center of the city’s social life for the black community, and sometimes by embracing the city’s history, one can gain so much knowledge about the people who were part of those communities.  Look at your own community and wherever the community’s center of activity occurred, it’s time to research it, talk about it, tell the story, create a website, go on Facebook and create a community and celebrate who you are.

Use Golden West as a model.  Appreciate the info that is there—but then look at it again—but this time for the structure.  Look at what has been compiled—I am sure that your own communities have stories, that though unique, can be presented in a similar pattern.   I was very impressed to have a chance to admire the work of Mr. Bennett, and hope that he will inspire others to tell the stories of their hometown as well.  No matter how large, or how small.  If you live in a really large city like Chicago—then tell the story of the old family neighborhood.  You don’t have to try to become the next DuSable museum—-tell your own neighborhood history instead.  Lots of opportunities and with Mr. Bennetts’s site of the Golden West, you have a great model to follow.

Well that’s it for this week, folks.  Have a great week, and please keep doing what you do.

Keep researching, keep documenting, and keep sharing what you find!



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