Land in the Pacific Northwest of America was up for grabs by 1844. Hordes flocked to what came to be known as Oregon Country to lay new roots in this semi-lawless territory.
But for Black people? It became a nightmare.
A temporary government was put in place by Peter Burnett, and under his rule, slavery had to go! But this was no kindness.
Slavery meant competition for land, and in this former slaveholder’s mind, a perfect utopia looked like a nation where NO Black person existed - free OR enslaved. So he banned ALL Black people from the Oregon lands.
The Peter Burnett Lash Law was the consequence of staying.
Under this law, if a Black person refused to leave, it was legal to mercilessly whip them.
The law even got specific, stating that no “less than twenty or more than thirty-nine stripes” could be unleashed.
Fortunately, no one was lashed under this horrific legislation - it was quickly amended.
It was, however, the first of three exclusion laws that shaped the region and the white supremacy that followed. When Oregon joined the Union, they only did so to ban slavery and become an all-white state.
Today? That legacy persists. While Portland, Oregon, is perpetuated as progressive, it’s actually, according to professor Winston Grady-Willis, “a key site for Klan activity.”
What do you expect from an all-white region that legalized racist flogging?