The Vancouver African American History Project, 2000-2001: Students Discovering History

Three women and one man standing on porch
l-r: Mary Byrd, Christal Jenkins, Keri Conway, Carlos Delcid

The Center for Columbia River History’s Vancouver African American History Project was an exciting school-year-long educational program for high school juniors and seniors in Vancouver. The students, who attended Fort Vancouver, Lewis and Clark, Evergreen, and Mountain View High Schools, researched African American history in Vancouver from 1941-1948.

Project participants learned about research, oral history, and local Black History. They conducted primary and secondary source research into their topics, including oral histories with community members. The students analyzed their information,and presented their findings in June 2001 in a public program titled Lift Every Voice: African Americans in World War II Vancouver, Washington.

To assist with the project, CCRH formed a small short-term advisory board composed of members of Vancouver’s African American community. This group met quarterly, to help shape the project, recommend written sources and people who might be interested in being interviewed, and promote the program. Advisory board members were Val Joshua (Clark County NAACP), Angela Guess-Westbrooks (Washington State University Vancouver), DaVerne Bell (Vancouver School District) Dolly England (Vancouver School of Arts and Academics), Ronnie Hill (McLoughlin Middle School) and Samuel Kelly (Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center).

Find out about Lift Every Voice: African Americans in World War II Vancouver, Washington.

Read the students’ presentations and exhibit text excerpts: 

View pictures from a skit created and presented by the students in December 2000

Do you have stories or information to share about this topic? Questions about the project? Contact CCRH or call (360) 258-3289

Want to see what the students read to research their topic?

The Project Coordinators, McQueen Basil Duncantell and Melissa Williams, were both upper division history students at Portland State University. They helped the students uncover an important part of history that previously had not been examined in depth by scholars or the general public.

The goals of CCRH’s Vancouver African American History Project were to provide educational opportunities for students at all levels, to educate students and the Vancouver community about this aspect of Columbia River Basin history; to present programs that explore the African American experience in Vancouver, focusing on the World War II era; and to facilitate connections between local, regional and national history.Vanport Flood Evacuees at Trinity Episcopal Church, Portland, 1948. From the collections of the Oregon Historical Society.

Co-sponsors for the Vancouver African American History Project included the Center for Columbia River History’s James B. Castles Endowment, the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Trust, Portland State University, SWIFT, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Vancouver Branch NAACP 1139, and the McLoughlin Heights Church of God.