From Maxville to Vanport
Saturday, May 26, 2018 - 7:30pm
From Maxville to Vanport

From Maxville to Vanport

Saturday, May 26 | 7:30 PM
Alberta Rose Theater
$5 - $35

Tickets available at

PJCE performs "From Maxville to Vanport" with the amazing Marilyn Keller May 26th, 7:30 pm at the Alberta Rose Theatre. Lyrics by S. Renee Mitchell, music by PSU Faculty Member Ezra Weiss, films by Kalimah Abioto, historical consultation by Gwendolyn Trice of Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.

An excerpt from the program notes for From Maxville to Vanport.

Maxville, a logging town built in 1923 in Wallowa County, and Vanport, built in 1942 just north of Portland for shipyard workers, were multicultural communities that housed workforces with significant African American and immigrant populations at a time when many Oregonians were openly hostile to them. From Maxville to Vanport looks honestly at the prejudice these people faced and celebrates their resilience, courage, and important contributions to Oregon. It tells stories of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the face of remarkable adversity; stories that deserve to be better understood by all Oregonians.

From the beginning of World War I through the 1960s, millions of African American people moved from the South in a mass exodus called the Great Migration. They did so to escape the oppressive conditions of the South, where African Americans were systematically forced into a second-class existence through Jim Crow laws, and lynching was a constant threat. None of these refugees knew exactly what the future would hold for them, but all of them knew that even if life would be better in the North, it still wouldn’t be easy. Leaving their homes and communities behind seemed worth the risk, even if the opportunities they pursued were still unequal to those enjoyed by white Americans.

Jazz was a product of the Great Migration, too. This music was created by African American musicians in New Orleans in the early 20th century. Then it was a hyper-local music played only in certain neighborhoods; now it is a wildly diverse music played by all kinds of people all over the world. Louis Armstrong, a black musician and one of jazz’s first superstars, moved from New Orleans to Chicago in 1922. There he would make his first recordings, and eventually become one of the world’s best-known musicians—achievements he would have been unlikely to attain had he stayed in New Orleans. Even though Armstrong’s profession was different, he moved north for the same reasons as did the men and women who cut logs and built ships in Oregon.

Our artistic team spoke with audiences in Portland and Wallowa County, where we asked the people directly connected to these histories to tell us how they felt about them and how they would want us to portray their experiences. That feedback along with extensive conversations with Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center Executive Director Gwendolyn Trice and other descendants and former residents of both Vanport and Maxville informed the creation of the piece. It was essential for their narratives to be portrayed authentically and respectfully in this project, and we are so grateful to have had so many participate so generously. -Douglas Detrick