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Walking Nearby History: Judy Bentley on “Walking Washington’s History”

Staying home and walking more in your neighborhood? There’s more underfoot than you may realize. Cities are rich in layers of history, some visible, some not.

Heading out my side door, I find a clothesline pole still standing between my house and the condo building next door, trailing vines instead of drying sheets. A half-mile away is a monument marking the landing of the Denny-Low-Terry party at Alki in 1851. Those are the obvious finds.

Less obvious is the median sloping downhill in front of our house, separating two narrow one-way streets. When we moved here 16 years ago, the hillside was overgrown with weeds. One lone plum tree drooped with fruit each fall. In the early 1900s children walked to the neighborhood school along a one-lane dirt road paralleling a meadow. “We frequently preferred the trail along Chilberg Avenue,” recalled one resident, “to enjoy some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the open fields and leading up into ‘the woods,’ the hillside forest.” Pleasant memories for troubled times.

Troubled times are nothing new. As I researched Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, I often found conflict. I had read about the Everett Massacre of 1914 when striking millworkers in the city were supported by Wobblies who arrived on boats from Seattle. The Wobblies were met with gunfire. The dock where the clash occurred is long gone, but as I walked the waterfront in 2017, I found wreaths made out of dried cedar hung on a wire fence, each commemorating one of the 12 men killed.

WA History 1

At the Chinese Reconciliation Park in Tacoma, the haunting figures of Chinese workers expelled from the city in 1885 are painted on stone, an attempt to remember and acknowledge.

WA History 2

There were moments of pleasure, too, when I found the cool bubbling spring behind the Bigelow House in Olympia, which supplied drinking water to the early residents. Vancouver has not just one but three statues of women: a pioneer mother, a Native American woman, and a World War II welder.

WA History 3

Where history is less visible, interpretive art recalls the work of ordinary people. A sculpted fruit-picker’s bag sits on a square in Yakima.

WA History 4

To find history underfoot, look closely as you walk, and ask why. Then visit the local historical society when it opens again; you may find an oral history or memories that recall experiences like a walk to school.

Today, the meadow along that old dirt road has been reclaimed by community volunteers with plantings of more fruit trees, native shrubs, and wildflowers. Some of the forest above remains, on a hillside too steep for development. Walkers passing the wildflowers on this relatively quiet street are in good historic company.


Judy Bentley is the author of fourteen nonfiction books for young adults and three books published by the University of Washington Press, including Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, Hiking Washington’s History, and Free Boy: A True Story of Slave and Master. She taught composition, literature, and Pacific Northwest history for more than 20 years at South Seattle College.

Association of University Presses Releases Equity and Anti-Racism Statement

Below is a statement released on June 2, 2020 from the Association of University Presses.

The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) holds among our core values diversity and inclusion. As an organization and as a community, we mourn the lost lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, stolen by the systemic racism at work in the US. We condemn police brutality and other forms of socially sanctioned racist violence. And we stand in solidarity with all who continue to seek justice, to imagine equity, and to enact a different world.

Many of our member presses put the values of diversity and inclusion into the world in a tangible way, playing major roles over the last few decades in amplifying the voices of scholars who originated African American Studies, Native Studies, and LGBTQ studies, among other groundbreaking fields. These works are readily available to provide insights and are frequently cited as resources in response to police brutality or white supremacist violence.

But we have only to look to evidence such as that found in the Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey, indicating in 2019 that our ranks are 76% white, to know that holding a value is not sufficient. Every day our professional community—just as our personal communities—must work towards equity, towards inclusion, and towards justice.

Today we issue the AUPresses Statement on Equity and Anti-Racism, declaring that upholding these core values requires “introspection, honesty, and reform of our current practices, the interests they serve, and the people and perspectives they exclude.” Drafted by our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, taken through a rigorous review process by our Equity, Justice, and Inclusion (EJI) Committee, and approved by the AUPresses Board of Directors, this statement points a way forward:

“Only with systems of accountability in place to protect and lift up those who have been historically harmed and silenced by our collective inaction will we succeed in dismantling the white supremacist structure upon which so many of our presses and parent institutions were built. How to support these efforts sustainably across the industry must be considered a priority for the Association, its members, and its executive board as well as the main focus of the Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee.”

We acknowledge with gratitude the volunteer efforts of our EJI Committee, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and Gender, Equity, and Cultures of Respect Task Force in calling us to this work. Download a PDF of the Statement on Equity and Anti-Racism.

Our inaugural EJI Community Read is another piece of this witness and work, and many member presses are organizing their staffs to read these essential selections: White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo (Beacon, 2018) and Invisible People by Alex Tizon (Temple, 2019). Our community’s full list of nominations for the Community Read project provides a wider lens through which to understand current events across the US as people protest and seek to right the wrongs of systematic racism and the long injustices of white supremacy.

As a community of publishers we are called to discuss and absorb what these authors have to say and to act on our colleagues’ specific recommendations—such as explicitly anti-racist training for managers, amelioration of the no- and low-wage entry points to our industry, and new recruitment and promotion strategies—with a goal of making equity a lived experience.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Michael Brown. The devastating list goes on and on. Yes, say their names. Yes, do the reading. But we must also live and work as though we have listened.


Here is a link to the statement, originally published on the Association of University Presses website. Here also is a link to the AUPresses Statement on Equity and Anti-Racism.

Take a Virtual Tour of Seattle’s Built Environment With These UWP Books

We were sorry to miss seeing everyone here in Seattle for this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians. As a follow up, we would like to share some of the press’s recent publications that explore and celebrate Seattle’s rich architectural heritage and planned urban landscapes.

All the titles featured below, as well as all UW Press books on our website, are currently on sale at a discount of 40% off including free shipping through June 30th. For more information and to order, visit our website and enter WASH20 at checkout.

9780295741284Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City
by David B. Williams

“I could go on and on—every stop in the book seems to have an embedded mystery. . . . Chances are good that your neighborhood is in this book. Find and explore your own.”     Seattle Times

“Williams encourages readers to slow down and look at the city through a pedestrian’s eyes. It’s a worthy cause. . . . Williams actually gets you out onto the streets, where the history happened, and that makes everything seem closer and more relevant. . . . Seattle Walks is all about that feeling, of seeing familiar streets through new eyes. All it takes is a good guide, a slowing-down of your pace, and a willingness to stop and look up every once in a while.”Seattle Review of Books

9780295741345

Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
Second Edition
by Coll Thrush

“Native Seattle offers a dynamic new model for writing urban and Indian histories together. Thrush successfully challenges narratives of progress in U.S. history that imply that modernity is predicated on the decline of Native people. . . . By demonstrating how white place-stories involving disappearing Indians have shaped our accounts, he successfully works to restore both the deeper history of urban places as well as the influence of Native people in the subsequent development of cities.”Journal of American History

“Coll Thrush’s book has importance far beyond the history of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest . . . revolutionary in his approach to the broad nature of Seattle’s indigenous history. . . . This book will endure.”Pacific Northwest Quarterly

9780295744087

Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces: From SoDo to South Lake Union
by James M. Rupp

“The perfect guide for those wanting to discover the evolution of the city’s public realm through the ideas and works of artists and collectors.”―Cath Brunner, Director, Public Art 4Culture

“Through the story of Seattle’s embrace of iconic artists and their space-changing work Jim Rupp illuminates how public art transforms public spaces.”―Karen J. Hanan, Executive Director, Washington State Arts Commission

9780295745619 (1)Sculpture on a Grand Scale: Jack Christiansen’s Thin Shell Modernism
by Tyler Sprague

“Jack Christiansen pioneered new possibilities in structural engineering and architecture for decades, yet his work is largely unknown due in part to his intentional lack of self-promotion. Tyler Sprague’s definitive book follows the arc of Christiansen’s extraordinary career and gleans lessons for designers, builders, and historians alike.”―John Ochsendorf, professor of engineering and architecture, MIT

“When Christiansen built the largest freestanding concrete dome on earth, he established himself as the structural artist of the Pacific Northwest. This book is a must-read for aficionados interested in the intersection of engineering and the arts. To contemporary shell designers I say, “Read this book and learn from this giant!””―Sigrid M. Adriaenssens, Co-author of Shell Structures for Architecture: Form Finding and Optimisation

9780295746449

Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, 2nd Edition
Edited by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner
Paperback edition forthcoming August 2020

“Shaping Seattle Architecture reminds us of the responsibility we bear for future generations. Well illustrated and accessibly written, the book is a fundamental work for anyone seeking to understand Seattle.”―Sally J. Clark, Seattle City Council Member and Chair of the Council’s Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency Committee

“Shaping Seattle Architecture is the single indispensable guide to understanding the built environment of the Pacific Northwest’s largest city and the men and women who designed it. Based on meticulous research and enlivened by fresh insights and new discoveries, the book is both an essential resource for students of architecture and history and a fascinating guide for anyone who cares about the city we live in now.”―Leonard Garfield, executive director, Museum of History & Industry

9780295746463

The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design
by Thaïsa Way

“Way’s research has prepared her well as an interpreter of Haag’s residential design, public work, and very importantly, post-industrial landscape remediation. She documents the evolution of his design practice and theory, his influences and influence, and very interestingly, the history of the founding department of landscape architecture at the University of Washington.”―Therese O’Malley, associate dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art

“Thaisa Way has filled a conspicuous gap in the history of landscape architecture in the United States. Her well-researched combination of insightful biographical narrative and perceptive case studies illuminates the core values informing the brilliant and enduring accomplishments of Richard Haag as designer, educator, and political activist.”―Reuben Rainey, University of Virginia

9780295748078

Building Reuse: Sustainability, Preservation, and the Value of Design
by Kathryn Rogers Merlino
Paperback edition forthcoming August 2020

“Whether you are new to sustainability as a counterpart to historic preservation or a seasoned professional who knows LEED backward and forward, there is much inspiration to be found in Building Reuse.”

–Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

“A welcome addition to the growing dialogue on stewardship of the built environment. The detailed case studies provide meaningful insights to an underappreciated and often overlooked sustainability strategy.”Robert Young, author of Stewardship of the Built Environment: Sustainability, Preservation, and Reuse

9781933245560

Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City
by Jennifer Ott and the staff of HistoryLink

9781933245584

Seattle at 150: Stories of the City through 150 Objects from the Seattle Municipal Archives
by the staff of HistoryLink

Spring Dawn at Su Causeway: Xiaolin Duan on “The Rise of West Lake”

I never expected that 2020 would be shadowed by COVID-19 in both my home country and the one I am currently living in. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I have been spending more time online, joining Zoom meetings, sending messages, and reading every piece of information about this unfolding crisis.

Two news articles grabbed my attention as they mentioned the cultural site I wrote about in the book The Rise of West Lake: A Cultural Landmark in the Song Dynasty. On March 13, when the situation had somewhat stabilized in China, China Daily published an article “Hangzhou’s West Lake an idyllic spring destination.” Photos in this article show not only the willow trees that start sprouting but also sightseers strolling along the lake, all maintaining social distance measures and wearing masks (which is considered a necessary form of protection).

March has always been one of the best seasons for an outing to West Lake and long been extolled by poets and rendered by painters with emotionally charged brushes. The scenery is not much different from past years—not even from almost a thousand years ago. The willow and peach trees were planted along the causeway by the local governor Su Shi after an eleventh-century dredging project, and the Leifeng Pagoda in one photo has guarded the south end of the lake since the tenth century (the current one was rebuilt in 2002). Such scenery, however, becomes particularly precious this year. Hangzhou, like other cities in China, experienced a “stay-at-home” quarantine for the entire month of February, and major scenic sites were all closed to the public. It is not surprising that this article uses West Lake in the spring to symbolically convey the message that this is a long-awaited stabilized time; the masks in the image reveal just how much people miss the fresh air after four-weeks of self-quarantine. The lake indicates that it is now safe to go outdoors to embrace nature and represents the hope of going back to normal life. The emotion conveyed by springtime also enhances such hope. Literature and images about the lake love to portray the theme “Spring Dawn at Su Causeway,” one of the Ten Views that formed in the thirteenth century. At this moment, there is no better term than “spring dawn” to describe what people have desired during their long struggle in the dark.

Another article is about a bus that passed along the street next to West Lake that was painted with the three colors of Italy’s national flag, offering moral support for Hangzhou’s sister city, Verona. The bus exterior features both the painting of the Colosseum and the image of “Three Stupas and the Reflecting Moon,” another one of the Ten Views. The three pagodas in the middle of the lake were built by Su Shi to mark the boundary allowed for diked paddies. The practical function of these pagodas later disappeared while the scenic beauty they added to the lake became a popular theme for artistic creation. This scene also appears on the back of the one-yuan bill. Using this scenic site side-by-side with the Colosseum offers reassurance that the lake and its cultural sites are still considered as symbols for the city and Chinese culture.

Hangzhou and West Lake have long served as icons of Chinese landscape appreciation, literary and artistic expression, and tourism. During this difficult time, when people are living in fear, uncertainly, and isolation, the lake had become especially attractive and idealized. The fact that the lake welcomes visitors eases feelings of insecurity, and the iconic landscape symbolizes rapprochement with people in another country. The natural beauty of West Lake, as it has done many times throughout history, again has functioned as something comforting. Over time, writings on West Lake constructed it as a prominent landscape, consisting of stable elements such as the willow trees that always turn green in the spring and pagodas that silently yet firmly stand on the lakeshore. The “eternal” cultural tradition it conveys allows the lake to function as an anchor for identity, through which visitors and commentators have expressed their affection and a sense of hope for the country during such a scary and unknown time.

West Lake has dried up several times in history, and at times its beauty was shadowed by war and disasters. However, it could always resume its prosperity thanks to the endeavor, courage, and emotional attachment of people. Just as the lake has revived, I hope we can soon return to a time when people—in China, in the United States, and all other places—can enjoy and celebrate the natural scenery together with families and friends without worrying about social distancing.


Xiaolin Duan is assistant professor of history at North Carolina State University. The Rise of West Lake: A Cultural Landmark in the Song Dynasty is available now.

2019–2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship

The University of Washington Press (job number 176703), University of Chicago Press (JR07717), Cornell University Press (job number WDR-00022497), MIT Press (job number 18525), Northwestern University Press (job number 38451) and Ohio State University Press (Jobs) are now accepting applications for the 2019–2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship Program. The program seeks to increase diversity in scholarly publishing by providing fourteen-month fellowships in the acquisitions departments of the six university presses with the support of the Association of University Presses and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Search committees will begin reviewing applications after March 15, 2020. Selected fellows will be notified by April 15, 2020, to begin the fourteen-month fellowship on June 1, 2020.

FY20 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship_Page_1FY20 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship_Page_2

Marilyn Trueblood

Members of the UW Press community will be saddened to learn of the death of Marilyn Trueblood, who retired from the press in 2013. Marilyn passed away on January 25 after a brief battle with leukemia.

Over nearly four decades at UWP, Marilyn advanced through several editorial roles to become managing editor. Her training as an anthropologist, commitment to social justice, and broad interest in the arts and humanities informed both her intellectual engagement with the many books she handled and her personal relations with authors. Marilyn always did the right thing—whether it was going the extra mile to polish a manuscript, helping a colleague, or supporting a humanitarian cause. Her warmth and generosity inspired camaraderie across departments, and she was beloved by authors, with many of whom she maintained lifelong friendships. Marilyn’s grace, kindness, and spirit will be fondly remembered by all who knew her.

A Seattle Times obituary provides details about Marilyn’s rich and productive life. She is survived by her husband, former UWP director Pat Soden.

Marilyn Trueblood

 

Our 2019 holiday sale! Take 40% off

University of Washington Press books make great gifts! (And there is no shame in buying a book as a gift for yourself, either.)

Order online at www.uwapress.uw.edu and enter promo code WHOL19 to save 40% on all press titles.* Receive free shipping on orders over $75.00. Discounts valid through the end of the year.

*offer excludes titles from our publishing partners

uw-press-holiday-promo-website-banner.jpg

A Q&A with Poet David Biespiel

For National Poetry Month, we are pleased to share a conversation with poet David Biespiel, author of Republic Cafe.


It’s Monday, 10am. Would you tell us your motto for writing poems?

My motto would be, writing poems is impossible. That’s my motto. It’s impossible for me to do anything else, first of all, but to write poems. But, to write a poem? What is that? What is a poem? Every effort to write a poem is as much a soaring success as it is a terrible flub. It’s impossible to write in the direction I want to write, because as soon as I get close to that point on the horizon I’ve been aiming toward, what I’ve been trying to write appears different to me. Everything I’ve been doing, therefore, is wrong. A failure. In a catalogue essay from the 1960s of a MOMA exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s work, there’s this opening paragraph in Peter Selz’s introduction:

‘To render what the eye sees is impossible,’ Giacometti repeated one evening while we were seated at dinner at the inn at Stampa. He explained that he could really not see me as I sat next to him—I was a conglomeration of vague and disconnected details—but that each member of the family sitting across the room was clearly visible, though diminutive, thin, surrounded by enormous slices of space. Everyone before him in the whole history of art, he continued, had always represented the figure as it is; his task now was to break down tradition and come to grips with the optical phenomenon of reality. What is the relationship of the figure to the enveloping space, of man to the void, even of being to nothingness?

That about covers it—for writing. It’s impossible. And, that’s exactly what makes it so freeing, so enticing.

What led you to become a writer? And, specifically a poet?

I recently published a book on this subject, The Education of a Young Poet. I think I became a writer because I liked messing around with words, with sentences. I liked the feel of moving a verb from the front of a sentence to the end. I liked feeling curious about whether I should end a sentence on a noun, or start with a noun. I liked seeing the figure of ideas and images form, from one word to the next, one phrase and one clause to the next, one sentence and one paragraph to the next. That’s what I liked and what I still like at the most tactile/DNA level of writing. Writing a poem is all of that on steroids. Now, with a poem, too, you have lines to enhance even more new relationships between adjective and noun, for instance. It’s mind-blowing.

As for why I became a poet? Writing poems, for me—because I write poems and nonfiction—I find that poetry offers greater velocity than prose and also poetry dwells more deeply in metaphor. Speed plus associative feeling. That’s two things that draw me to write poems. Underneath all that is an interest in asking questions that, perhaps, poetry can reflect upon. Writing Republic Cafe I was interested in the importance of forgetting, as opposed to the more traditional interest in the importance of remembering. So I was writing the poem—the long poem that’s the centerpiece of the book—to reflect upon that question. And yet, that’s the paradox. The close I got to dramatizing what I was forgotten, I began to see it, or remember  it, differently. So the book is trying to figure out what to make of that enigma.

Did you write the book in Portland?

Mostly, yes. In late 2012, during the production period for Charming Gardeners, which UW Press published in 2014, I began taking notes and studying the patterns of Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour in Portland. Then, in the fall of 2014, I went to West Texas and wrote for a month without interruption. That’s where I drafted the book. I worked on it for several years after that, and then, in late 2017, I put the book through a big revision after Linda Bierds read it. I did that revision in my house here in Portland over several weeks.

Many writers begin their career with teachers and models. Republic Cafe is your sixth book of poems since 1996. Did you have a model when you first started to write? Do you now?

When I first started to write, I was mostly alone. Not alone in the world—well, not entirely alone in the world, I mean—but alone with my books, with paper and pen. No teachers. I had no guidance. Later I studied with several wonderful poets. At the University of Maryland I studied with Stanley Plumly, Michael Collier, and Phillis Levin. At Stanford, when I was a Stegner fellow, I studied with W.S. Di Piero and Ken Fields. Because Stan Plumly introduced my first book, I suppose I’m most identified with him, and I’m extremely grateful to have studied with him. Truth be told I still learn things from him. From him personally—we’ve remained close for thirty years. And especially through his poems, which are remarkable for their warmth and tenderness. Before those teachers came along, and ever since, I would say Walt Whitman has been a model for me. I don’t mean the man so much—not to dismiss the man, that is, but I mean the writing. His engagement as a poet with language and life. The nexus of self and society that is the hallmark of his poetry. I’ve learned from Whitman that while images never become out-of-fashion or obsolete, blow-hardedness does. Commentaries do. Explaining or psychoanalyzing kills invention. Kills metaphor. Kills freshness. What’s so great about Whitman is he still feels contemporary. It’s the 200th anniversary of his birth this year, and he still feels in touch with our own time. Whitman doesn’t try to explain his motivations. Instead he conveys a consciousness. That’s the thing I’ve most tried to learn from Whitman. To write a poem is to invent a consciousness. But, of course, it’s impossible.


Biespiel photo 2David Biespiel is a poet, critic, memoirist, and contributing to writer to American Poetry Review, New Republic, the New York Times, Poetry, Politico, The Rumpus, and Slate. He is poet-in-residence at Oregon State University, faculty member in the Rainier Writers Workshop, and president of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. He has received NEA and Lannan fellowships and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Balakian Award. He has previously published The Education of a Young Poet, Wild Civility, The Book of Men and Women, and Charming Gardeners. You can buy his most recent collection, Republic Cafe by clicking here.

In Memoriam: Leroy (Lee) Soper

Lee-Soper

Leroy Soper, photograph by Mary Randlett.

Leroy (Lee) Soper, a longtime member of the University of Washington Press advisory board, passed away on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, the eve of his ninety-second birthday.

University of Washington Press director Nicole Mitchell notes, “Lee was an ardent supporter of books generally and the University of Washington Press in particular. We were incredibly fortunate to have Lee’s support over the decades, and his presence will be greatly missed not only by the press and Seattle’s literary community, but also by book buyers and readers throughout the region.”

Lee began his career at the Walla Walla Bookshop in 1952 and worked for the University Book Store from 1959 to 1969. He left to establish the Raymar Northwest Book Company, the first large-scale regional book wholesaler in the Pacific Northwest. By offering timely access to stock, Lee’s wholesale business was key to helping bookstores across the region expand and flourish.

Lee returned to the University Book Store in 1977 as general book manager, and he remained there until he retired in 1993. He founded the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, still a dynamic resource for bookstores, booksellers, librarians, and media around the region, and he was a member of the American Booksellers Association. Lee helped judge the Governor’s Writers Award (now the Washington State Book Award), and he served on the University of Washington Press advisory board for twenty-six years, from its founding in 1988, helping the press earn its worldwide reputation as a leading publisher of high-quality academic and regional trade books.

Former University of Washington Press director Pat Soden writes, “Leroy Soper was Seattle’s ‘Mr. Books.’ He was an extraordinary bookman and dear friend to the generation of publishers and booksellers he trained and mentored. The general book department of the University Book Store is the monument Lee built, but his lasting legacy is the great book town Seattle has become. I will miss him beyond words.”

The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City

Burke-PortlandBlackPanthersFrom Ferguson, Missouri to Flint, Michigan, African American communities across the nation continue to struggle for the same basic rights, protections, and social services demanded by the civil rights movement exactly a half century ago. In their timely new book, The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City, authors Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson Jeffries remind us of an earlier case of concerned citizens, in a similarly overlooked black community, who took matters into their own hands when they felt they weren’t being heard by local leaders. While most of us easily associate the Black Panthers with berets and bullet belts, Burke and Jeffries show us that the Portland branch, which was much smaller than its more infamous counterparts in the Bay area, was more concerned with taking care of neighborhood kids and opening a free health clinic for the community.

Though there definitely are stories of violence, angry protests, police brutality, and other more dramatic episodes in their book, the excerpt I’ve chosen focuses on the group’s early attempts (before it was an official Black Panther branch) to start a free breakfast program for kids in the Albina district. I chose this passage for several reasons. For starters, it’s a warm, “feel good” moment that demonstrates the Portland Panthers’ ability to build community, countering the stereotype that portrays them only as angry and combative. Instead, we see Kent Ford and other Portland Panthers working to secure food donations, and organizing early morning schedules for cooks and servers, actions that clearly take a great deal of planning and effort. Secondly, we see through the press coverage how the Portland branch challenged those very preconceived notions about the Black Panthers. Reporters came in expecting militant ideology and instead found pancakes and syrup.

Finally, I chose this particular excerpt because it also speaks to the vision of the Panthers. Providing free breakfast to school kids might seem like a minor thing, but, as they argued, the idea that everyone is entitled to a healthy diet is truly a revolutionary concept. These days that concept is known as the “food justice” movement, but, as the authors show, it was being fought for in Portland long before it had an official name. Though the Portland Black Panthers branch dissolved by the 1980s, its legacy lives on in the city through the various activist groups fighting for fair housing, living wages, environmental justice, and an end to police brutality, among other issues. By shining the spotlight on the little known Portland Black Panther branch, Burke and Jeffries show us how even the smallest group—in the unlikeliest of places—can affect major change by building up its community and relentlessly pushing back against the powers that be.

Ranjit Arab, Senior Editor

The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City, by Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson Jeffries:

Even though they were not yet card-carrying members of the Black Panther Party, NCCF (National Committee to Combat Fascism) members in Portland worked diligently in the fall of 1969 to establish a free breakfast program for school kids. “The government had money to fight a war thousands and thousands of miles away . . . and send astronauts to the moon,” Kent Ford said, “but ensuring that kids received a well-balanced meal before heading off to school was not a priority . . . so the Panthers made it a priority.” In 1967, the US government spent a mere $600,000 on breakfast programs nationwide. But as more and more Panther branches started their own free breakfast programs, government-sponsored breakfast initiatives proliferated. By 1972, government-sponsored breakfast programs were feeding more than a million children of the approximately five million who qualified for such aid.

Doing the work of a Panther without being acknowledged as a Panther frustrated some of the Portland members. Their community survival initiatives, among other things, were indicative of the NCCF’s burning desire and commitment to be recognized as full-fledged Panthers. Becoming an official Panther came with a tremendous amount of responsibility, but to some it was not significantly different from what they had become accustomed to doing as members of the NCCF. Oscar Johnson remembers how he structured his days around Panther activities: “My work as a Panther was not all that different than what I was doing as a member of the NCCF. I worked nights, so I was the driver. I’d finish my shift and pick up kids who needed a ride to breakfast. Go home and sleep. We solicited cash and food from neighborhood businesses in the afternoon and attended political education classes at night. It felt good. . . . We were doing something. We had the respect of the community.” Drawing on a small but diverse group of young working-class and student activists, these African American men and women used a variety of networks and connections to build a robust breakfast program. The Portland NCCF made the announcement that it was going to start a free breakfast program at a community meeting. “From the outset, people were receptive to the program,” said Black Panther Patty (Hampton) Carter. Believing the program to be a worthwhile endeavor, Rev. Samuel L. Johnson, head pastor of the Highland United Church of Christ, offered his church as the venue for the program. The church, located at 4635 NE Ninth Ave, was ideal, as it was spacious, met building and health code inspections, and was in close proximity to Martin Luther King Elementary School, which was located at 4906 NE Sixth Avenue. One week into the 1969–70 school year, NCCF members distributed leaflets (outlining the schedule, goals, and objective of the free breakfast program) to various community groups and passed them out to kids as they walked to and from school. Ford remembered that “people were so supportive of the program. . . . Rev. Johnson didn’t charge us a dime . . . neither did the Wonder Bread company that gave us fifty loaves of bread each week, no questions asked . . . then there was this one nice lady who (within a month of starting the breakfast program) came in one day with seventy-five cartons of eggs. When I attempted to pay her for her trouble, she turned me down flat saying, ‘You guys are doing good work.’ ”

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