Located in Portland, Oregon, Albina is a historical neighborhood that once had the largest concentration of Black citizens in the state. The city was founded in the early 1870s by William Page, Edwin Russell, and George Williams. Named after Page’s wife, it experienced a lot of population growth in the 1870s and 1880s.
The Black Population Grows In Albina
Albina existed as a separate city until 1891 when it was annexed. At this time, the population had a heavy European population. Like most of the settling of the west, this was thanks to the expansion of the railroads as they provided transportation and jobs.
Portland’s Black citizens typically lived on the west side of the Willamette River with Albina being on the other side. Rich White citizens managed to scoop up land that made up much of the neighborhood and so controlled housing opportunities in the area.
As is often the case, population growth in Portland was too rapid for the housing available.By 1910, Black citizens were heading across the Willamette and into Albina. The White citizens who owned properties in upper Albina made sure Black citizen were frozen out from those homes. This saw Black citizens settle in lower portion of the neighborhood which was closer to job opportunities anyway.
Another Population Boom
The other thing that causes a population boom in an area comes during and after a war. When World War II started, there was a need for builders to support the war effort resulting in a massive spike to around 20,000 Black people to Portland.
Most of this 20,000–around 16,000 found themselves without a home in 1948. During this year, the Columbia River Flood wiped out Vanport. A number of former Vanport citizens would move to Albina taking whatever housing was available.
In part two, we go into the decline of Albina during the 1950s and into the 1980s.