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Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936

In the article below, Kimberley Mangun, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at The University of Utah, describes how she “discovered” Beatrice Morrow Cannady, an editor who spent nearly 25 years advocating civil rights in Oregon. Cannady used her Portland-based newspaper, The Advocate, as well as interracial teas, radio addresses, and talks to civic and religious groups and high school and college students to promote race relations and equal rights. But Cannady was all but forgotten when she moved to Los Angeles in about 1938. Mangun’s book, the first full-length study of the activist’s career, restores Cannady to her rightful place in the early civil-rights movement and dispels the myth that African Americans played little part in Oregon’s history.

Beatrice Morrow Cannady was one of Oregon’s most dynamic civil rights activists. Between 1912 and 1936, she gave hundreds of lectures to high school and college students about the importance of better race relations. She used the new medium of radio to share her message of interracial goodwill with listeners in the Pacific Northwest. She was assistant editor, and later publisher, of The Advocate, a weekly Black newspaper founded by her first husband, Edward, in 1903. Cannady was the first Black woman to graduate from law school in Oregon, and the first to run for state representative. She held interracial teas in her home in northeastern Portland. She tried to mobilize white Portlanders to protest repeated showings of the racist film The Birth of a Nation. And when the Ku Klux Klan swept into Oregon from California in 1921, she urged Governor Ben W. Olcott to act quickly to protect Black Oregonians’ right to live and work absent fear.

Despite these accomplishments — and many more during her 25-year career — Beatrice Cannady fell into obscurity when she left Oregon in about 1938. She spent the next four decades in the Los Angeles area, still pursuing the things she was passionate about, but in a far less public way. She wrote for the Precinct

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