Screenshot image of digital exhibit featuring Microcosm's building and map of the surrounding area.

Celebrating Portland’s Hidden Landmarks of Black History

Have you ever wondered whether your neighborhood has hidden histories or radical roots? Our surroundings are the sites of rich cultural histories, whether or not prevailing systems of power deem them worthy of preservation. In our hometown of Portland, OR, an innovative new digital history project is bringing forth stories of community strength, vibrancy, and resistance—a legacy that even includes Microcosm’s headquarters!

Credit: Oregon Black Pioneers, “Hidden Landmarks of Albina’s Black Community”

Hidden Landmarks of Albina’s Black Community” is a new, interactive digital exhibit and Storymap created by Oregon Black Pioneers, a Portland-based organization working to illuminate the over 400-year history of African American Oregonians across the state; and Moreland Resource Consulting, a community development firm founded by author and community leader Kimberly Moreland, who was granted an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award earlier this month. Both organizations worked on the project in partnership with Restore Oregon’s Albina Preservation Initiative.

The digital exhibit takes a close look at Albina, a historically Black neighborhood in Portland, documenting the cultural significance of thirty properties around the area. Some remain today, while others have been lost to intentional displacement and so-called development and urban renewal efforts over the past half century. Oregon Black Pioneers write that the exhibit “highlights structures hidden in plain sight, which together reveal the social, political, and entrepreneurial bonds of 20th-century Black Portlanders.”

Explore the map, and you might notice some familiar places, including Microcosm’s Portland office! This building was once the NAACP Credit Union, which provided loans and banking services to Black Portlanders who were denied services at other banks in the city. We love seeing our home base included in this project, and we take seriously the responsibility of our presence in this culturally and historically significant place. We are excited to see this property included in a project that could change the course of how preservation is approached on a much larger scale, and we’re grateful to our neighbors and these organizations for bringing this and other untold stories of our city to light. By celebrating the radical histories of the cities, landscapes, and communities we inhabit, we keep their liberatory spark alive, strengthening our coalitions across generations.

Credit: Oregon Black Pioneers, “Hidden Landmarks of Albina’s Black Community”

Take a closer look at the trailblazing work Oregon Black Pioneers have been doing since 1993!
Learn more about Portland’s civil rights history through Oregon Black Pioneers’s “Racing to Change” digital exhibit, which makes a great companion to The Enduring Legacy of Portland’s Black Panthers.