Civil War Round Table
Dodds - Edwards
Civil War Roundtable
R. Gregory Nokes
“Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial
in the Oregon Territory”
(See below for description)
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 7:30
Everyone is welcome at No Charge.
Time: 7:30 p.m., room open at 7:00 p.m.
When: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Where: Cramer Hall, Room 494
Portland State University (PSU)
Parking: PSU parking structure, free after 7:00 p.m.
Dodds - Edwards Civil War Roundtable (DECWRT) meets monthly through out the year.
Everyone is welcome at no charge.
Voting membership is $10 per person, $20 per couple per year due each year at the January meeting.
DECWRT works through the PSU History Department to promote a positive learning environment for those interested in Civil War studies.
When they were brought to Oregon in 1844, Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children were promised freedom in exchange for helping develop their owner’s Willamette Valley farm. However, Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.
In Breaking Chains, R. Gregory Nokes tells the story of the only slavery case adjudicated in Oregon’s pre-Civil War courts—Holmes v. Ford. Through the lens of this landmark case, Nokes explores the historical context of racism in Oregon and the West, reminding readers that there actually were slaves in Oregon, though relatively few in number.
Drawing on the court record, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition of slavery in the state, many in Oregon tolerated it and supported politicians who advocated for slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.
Breaking Chains sheds light on a somber part of Oregon’s history, bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience. The book will appeal to readers interested in Pacific Northwest history and in the history of slavery in the United States.
R. Gregory Nokes is a former reporter and editor for The Associated Press and The Oregonian. With The AP, he served as a foreign correspondent in Latin America and later as a diplomatic correspondent covering presidential and diplomatic trips abroad. His travels as a journalist took him to more than 50 countries, including three trips to China. He retired in 2003 from The Oregonian to begin a second career as an author and lecturer on the experience of immigrant Chinese laborers in the Pacific Northwest during the latter decades of the 19th century. His work in uncovering details of the virtually forgotten 1887 massacre of as many as 34 Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon resulted in the formal naming of the massacre site as Chinese Massacre Cove by the United States Board on Geographic Names. A native of Portland, Nokes attended Willamette University, earning a BA degree, and later attended Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow. He and his wife, Candise, live in West Linn, Oregon.