Thursday, September 14, 2023

Honoring Beatrice Morrow Cannady

The 25-year home and headquarters for early 20th Century civil rights activist Beatrice Morrow Cannady is now on its way to becoming Portland’s latest entry to the National Register of Historic Places.

The imposing residence on the western edge of Northeast Portland’s Grant Park neighborhood was Cannady’s home from 1912 to 1937, years when she relentlessly advocated for equal treatment and mutual interracial respect among all citizens.

 Her achievements included writing, editing and ultimately publishing The Advocate, a Portland newspaper dedicated to printing the news and advocating equal treatment for Portland’s Black community.  She also was instrumental in creating Pacific Northwest chapters of the NAACP.

 From her 2 1/2 story Northeast Portland home, Cannady hosted numerous “interracial teas,” aimed at promoting friendship and respect among races.  She also loaned books from her personal in-house library of books all written by Black authors.  Her busy schedule also included many speeches at schools, churches and colleges on the subject of race relations.

 Her many topics included discrimination in housing, education, public accommodations and employment. 

 In 1928, Morrow spoke at the national NAACP convention stressing the importance of women in fighting for equality and equal rights. 

Beatrice Morrow Cannady, 1926 (Oregon Historical Society)

In 1932, after her marriage to a second husband, Beatrice Morrow Franklin became the first Black Oregonian to run for the state house of representatives.  She tallied more than 7,600 votes, but fell short of reaching the general election ballot.

 The Great Depression took a major toll on The Advocate newspaper.  She closed the downtown office and moved the business to the attic of her home, but by 1936 or 1937 she ceased publication.  She and her husband moved to Los Angeles, ending her civil rights advocacy in Oregon. .

 Beatrice Morrow died in 1974, age 85.  “Today, Cannady is rightfully remembered as one of Oregon’s most dedicated and dynamic civil rights activists,” states the National Register nomination.

 While the house, built in 1911, is an excellent representation of the Arts and Crafts era of residential construction, the National Register nomination is based not on its architectural merit but on its association with ethnic history and civil rights. 

 Funding for research was provide by the City of Portland, as part of its effort to make sure that city history adequately reflects important contributions across the city’s ethnic diversity.  The extensively-detailed National Register nomination form was researched by Caitlyn Ewers and Matthew Davis of the Architectural Resources Group and Kimberly Moreland of Moreland Resource Consulting.

 The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission unanimously approved the nomination, which will be forwarded to the Oregon state advisory committee on historic preservation, and then very likely to the U.S Department of Interior that manages the national register.

 ------Fred Leeson

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