Built as temporary housing for shipyard workers, Vanport was one of Oregon’s largest cities in the 1940s and home to thousands of families.
On May 30, 1948, the city flooded. The deadly flood killed 15 people and left more than 18,000 homeless.
The flood displaced a large African American community in what is now North Portland. Vanport was by far the most diverse city in Oregon at the time, deriving its name from its location between Vancouver and Portland.
Vanport Mosaic, an organization focused on using history to foster activism, is hosting a two-week festival to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the floods.
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management kicks off the festival May 23 at City Hall. PBEM is working to build more disaster-resilient and equitable communities around Portland.
Laura Lo Forti, the Vanport Mosaic co-founder and co-director said “it’s important to remember because I feel like we are experiencing yet another wave of collective historical and cultural amnesia.” Lo Forti said the festival is a way of combating that.
Vanport Mosaic is hosting the events for the fourth year. Lo Forti said they amplify, honor and preserve the many silenced histories of our region.
A host of activities will take place between now and June 5 from an art exhibit and conversation with artist Henk Pander and Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, to film screenings and theater. Organizers point to opportunities to learn about Vanport’s history including the Spirit of Vanport Lives On, with daylong tours at Portland Raceway, where the city once stood.
“We want to have many entry points — you have to find a story that calls you in, that’s our hope that you find something that really invites you in,” Lo Forti said.
“This is a movement of memory activism and we all have to join.”
Find more information about the events here.