Explore the Offerings of the Vanport Mosaic 2023-11-21

The Vanport Mosaic is, according to their website, “a memory-activism platform. We amplify, honor, and preserve the silenced histories that surround us in order to understand our present, and create a future where we all belong.” Since 2014, their collective has worked to honor the cultural and historical memories of underrepresented communities throughout the Portland area.

The Vanport Mosaic started as a project to document oral histories about Vanport, the community built in 1942 between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington to provide homes for the thousands who were coming to the area to work in the World War II shipyards. The entire city of Vanport was wiped out by a disastrous flood on Memorial Day in 1948; over 18,000 residents were displaced and at least fifteen but likely more were killed. Many Woodlawn residents had family members who lived in Vanport.

To date, the work of the Vanport Mosaic has included an annual festival, ongoing tours and exhibits, and theatrical events. Many of their offerings, past and present, can be viewed virtually on their website at their Living Archive. Woodlawn resident and a founder of the Portland chapter of the Black Panthers, Kent Ford, is featured in this video.

The public domain photo above is a June 1948 National Weather Service photograph of the Vanport Flood.