Salem Online History This site is provided by Salem Public Library (Salem, Oregon).
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Salem's Ethnic Histories
Jackie Winters
George Sun
Japanese laundry

Chief Peter Chafean

Migrant workers
African Americans In Salem
African-American settlers in Salem faced many difficult obstacles. Although slavery was illegal in Oregon, it was not unheard of in the 1840s and 50s. Many more blacks worked in menial and poorly paid jobs, and struggled to get an education. Technically, these hard-working African-Americans were not supposed to be in the state at all. From 1844 to 1926, Oregon’s laws prohibited blacks from living in the state. As Egbert Oliver wrote, “African-Americans were essentially illegal aliens in Oregon.” Learn More

Chinese Americans In Salem.
Most of the Chinese who worked in the area came from the province of Kwang Tung, heading first to the goldfields in California around 1850, then later headeding north. Chinese were recruited by six "companies" in China these organizations held life and death power over its members and demanded tax beyond the passage money, 1/3 to go to the central Chinese government, 1/3 to the immigrant’s tong and 1/3 for return of the immigrants ashes to his homeland. Ships bringing Chinese to Oregon direct from Hong Kong began to arrive in Portland beginning in 1868, consigned under contract to Tong Duck Chung. Learn More

Japanese Americans In Salem.
On the first day of June, 1942, there was an unusually large group around a train at the Southern Pacific train depot on 13th Street in Salem. The passengers already aboard, Japanese-Americans who had been picked up in cities to the north and their armed soldier escorts, waited during the train’s stop of two hours. Local families and their possessions, everything a few large bundles could contain, were slowly boarded. Remaining on the platform were a group of whites from the Salem Council of Church Women and other friends of the departing families. Learn More.

The Kalapuya: Salem's Native Americans
The Kalapuya Indians (also known as the Calapooya or Calapooia) "lived in the heart of the fertile Willamette Valley between the Coast Range Mountains and the Cascade Mountains," notes an article entitled "The Kalapuya: a Wealthy Way of Life." "Their territories stretched from the winter villages of the Tualatin" (near present day Portland) to the Yonkalla, who lived from just northeast of Roseburg, to the Calapooia Mountains," continues this Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde publication. "As a semi-nomadic people, the Kalapuya(s) lived in permanent winter homes and migrated throughout the Willamette Valley during the... Learn More

Salem's Latino Community
The signs of a vibrant Latino culture are everywhere in Salem today.  Restaurants serving burritos, fajitas, and enchiladas are as common as those selling hamburgers.  Grocery stores stock traditional Mexican carnes, chiles, and dulces.  Dress shops and party stores provide all the necessities for an elaborate quinceañera, and there are dance clubs playing cumbia and ranchera music.  Salem's Mexican-American community has been growing rapidly since the 1970s, and the flowering of Latino culture is a relatively recent development in its history.  Learn More
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