Photo credits: Intisar Abioto/City of Portland
In America’s far-reaching past, Black-owned beauty parlors and hair grooming establishments ingrained within local communities across the U.S. were strategic checkpoints – where Black culture’s epicenter was fully assembled.
The assembly’s insiders behind the scenes, as well as its attention-craving influencers, regularly held court in barber and beauty shops – for significant personal or professional discussions. The oldest Black-owned firm in Oregon, which operates in such a commercial sector is Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop. This business is located in Portland. It is a newly-listed entity, which has officially been included as part of the National Register of Historic Places in the U.S., as per a recent report by National Public Radio. During 1956, Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barbershop finalized its inception. The founders were Ben and Mary Rose Dean.
In their collective prime, Mr. and Mrs. Dean functioned properly as an ambitious black married couple.
During the 20th century’s Great Migration, the couple abandoned Alabama for the purpose of building a beacon of prosperity for their offspring. Alabama’s searing flames of systemically-supported racial injustice kept Black Alabamans stifled by poverty, ignorance and the ongoing threat of death – at the hands of white domestic terrorist groups. The Deans reached Oregon during the year 1944.
The trek was a daring one. This is because though it was economically more prosperous than Alabama, Oregon was still racially segregated on no small scale. The Deans decreased their odds by settling inside a predominantly black communal enclave. Mr. and Mrs. Dean united to undertake a significant communal role, which promoted Black strength, unity, and cooperation. The budding power couple purchased a residential property right off 200 block of Hancock Street in Portland.
Later, the Deans legally set up a makeshift barbershop in their new home’s basement floor. After overcoming Portland, Oregon’s systemically-backed lending policies of racial prejudice practiced by bankers, the Deans sidestepped a system stacked against them and obtained a hardship loan. Subsequently, the Deans finally started their own barber and beauty parlor. Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop has grown over the course of many successful decades. The firm has blossomed into an anchor for Portland’s Black working class community and the Black small business proprietors who serve them.
This unisex hair grooming and beauty establishment endured culturally-centered shifts over the course of time. Issues, such as urban regeneration and the negative effects that COVID-19 forced on Black-owned companies – while fighting to remain open. Kimberly Brown, the Deans’ granddaughter, now owns and runs the business today. She has continued to uphold the traditions founded by her grandfather and grandmother. News of Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop’s inclusion, courtesy of the National Register of Historic Places, comes months after the National Park Service granted a significant amount of new funding.
The agency provided a sum of monies totaling over $16 million dollars. This large contribution was made to finance preservation initiatives aimed at preserving historical locations, which can verifiably be linked to America’s well-documented era, which highlighted a tumultuous fight for Black civil rights. Kimberly Moreland serves as President of an organization called the Oregon Black Pioneers. She is also the author who wrote “Image of America: History of African Americans in Portland.” Moreland is a valued regular who is provided with exemplary service at Dean’s Beauty Salon and Barber Shop.
Not only that, she played a key role in advancing the shop’s successful candidacy and officially become a part of the National Register of Historic Places.