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A new Instagram interview has brought attention to Oregon’s concerning racial history. A video posted last week saw content creator LTtheMonk asking strangers on the street about Oregon’s black exclusion laws.

LTtheMonk approached several people and asked them, “Which state didn’t want slavery, but only because they wanted to ban black people from living there?”

One interviewee said, “That’s terrible. Like I should know this but maybe I tried to pivot it out of my brain.” 

Others attempted to lodge a guess but got it wrong. A few notable guesses included South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama.

When LTtheMonk finally revealed the answer, a Black guesser said confidently, “I will never be going to Oregon.”

On June 26, 1844, Oregon’s legislative community passed a series of Black exclusion laws for what was then known as Oregon Country. The set of laws strictly stated that free African Americans and former enslaved Peoples could not move into Oregon Country under any circumstances — no matter their freedom Status. Initially, the punishment for violating this ban was being “whipped not less than twenty nor more than thirty-nine stripes.”

Half a year later, in December of that same year, the legislative committee passed an amendment to the law that changed the punishment from a one-time whipping to forced labor. The forced labor amendment specified “that African Americans who stayed within Oregon would be hired at public auction and that the ‘hirer’ would be responsible for removing the ‘hiree’ out of the territory after the prescribed period of forced service was rendered.” 

This law remained well enforced even though Oregon Country claimed that both slavery and involuntary servitude were illegal in the state. 

Legislators believed that “it would be highly dangerous to allow free Negroes and mulattoes to reside in the Territory, or to intermix with Indians, instilling … feelings of hostility toward the white race.”

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