Author R. Gregory Nokes explains the history of Oregon's slavery debate.This is an in-person program. Masks are optional at all in-person library events.
Few Oregonians today may be aware that Oregon seriously considered becoming a slave state. Slavery was the dominant issue at Oregon's Constitutional Convention in 1857. Jesse Applegate led the argument against it. "Whoever is against the extension of slavery is of my party," he declared. "Whoever is for it, is against me. My platform has one single plank." On the other side of the argument was Peter Burnett, himself a former slave owner, who led the first major wagon train to Oregon in 1843. Put to a vote, Oregon voters approved a provision in the state's Constitution prohibiting slavery. But voters also approved an exclusion law prohibiting free Blacks from settling in Oregon. This blot on Oregon's history was not formally removed from the Constitution until 1926.
R. Gregory Nokes, is the author of Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory
, published by Oregon State University Press. Breaking Chains was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Award for non-fiction and was Number 6 that year in The Oregonian's ranking of the top ten new books in the Pacific Northwest.
This program is in partnership with Deschutes County Historical Society.