A small group of people huddled under an awning in front of Oregon State University’s bookstore, just within sight of Reser Stadium, to hear the story of how Beavers Football player Jack Yoshihara missed his chance to play in the 1942 Rose Bowl because of travel restrictions placed on Japanese Americans during World War II.
A few minutes, before they’d stood in the rain to hear about how Carrie Halsell, OSU’s first African American graduate, wasn’t allowed to live on campus when she enrolled at the university in 1922, just outside the dormitory named in her honor in 2001.
Prior to that the group had visited the intersection of Southwest Jefferson Way and Southwest 15th Street for a discussion of a black student walk-out that left campus near that point in 1969 in a protest sparked over treatment of African American football players by their coaches.
All these and more were featured on a walking tour of locations significant to the history of students of color at OSU on Thursday afternoon. The event was part of the university’s annual celebration surrounding Martin Luther King Day.
Natalia Fernández, curator and archivist with OSU’s Oregon Multicultural Archives and an organizer of the tour, said this was the first time the tour had been offered for the general public.
Fernández said the tour had its origin in Kim McAloney and Janet Nishihara’s class Academic Learning Services 199, which is focused on the histories of people of color in Oregon. In 2013, McAloney and Nishihara had their students research histories of students of color at OSU and create a guidebook of sites significant to that history. The original guidebook was produced in the fall of 2013 with a total of 10 locations, but McAloney and Nishihara had students in their fall 2015 class update and expand the guidebook to 17 locations. As an archivist, Fernández was involved to help students do their research for the project.
While the tour Thursday had just three participants braving the rain with Fernández, McAloney and Nishihara, people interested in the tour can use the student-produced guidebook, complete with maps, photos and text describing historical events, on their own; it’s available online at http://bit.ly/1ZyUlSO. A blog with more information on the tour is available at http://bit.ly/1RIIOfm.
Fernández said that while only a few people came out for the event, it was nice to have an audience that was engaged and asking questions.
“We want to make this information known… we want people to use it,” she said.
Nishihara said part of the inspiration for the project was her own experiences at OSU.
“I was an undergraduate and a graduate at OSU and we never learned any of this,” she said.
She said she works with students of color a lot, and she said they often feel like they don’t belong at OSU.
“I want them to know that students of color have a long history on campus and they have as much claim to it as anyone,” she said.