Although blacks were the majority population within the Albina community, they had little control over neighborhood conditions or institutions. In the late 1960s, only 89 out of 1,978 businesses in the area were black-owned. Between 1965 and 1970, 60 of the 200 businesses along the main stretch of NE Union Avenue closed, leaving vacant storefronts in a ten-block zone. As white business owners fled Albina during the 1960s and 1970s, the storefronts remained vacant, in part because Portland-area banks refused to issue business loans in redlined black neighborhoods. (Redlining is a term used to describe the process of denying loans to specific neighborhoods,
primarily based on the community’s social characteristics.) Aspiring black
entrepreneurs were shut out of their own communities. City-wide, black
home-ownership, employment, and high school graduation rates all lagged
behind those of whites. The only statistics where blacks surpassed whites
were arrest and incarceration rates. As dean of the University of Oregon law
school Dr. Derrick Bell observed in the mid 1980s:
You might see few blacks on the streets of Portland, and virtually none outside the city.
But the cellblocks of the state prison contains the highest percentage of blacks as com
pared to the state population of any state in the nation save our sister state, Washington.
At the same time, Portland had gained a national reputation as one of the most livable cities, yet as Herndon noted, “that livability is not there for blacks, instead we get prison, unemployment, bad housing, and Klan-type harassment against a black family living in a Portland suburb.”
From Black and Blue: Policy Community Relations in Portland’s Albina District, 1964-1985, by Leanne C. Serbulo and Karen J. Gibson