Melissa Lang, the current Oregon Women’s History Consortium fellow, discusses her thesis work on women’s organization and activism for civil rights in Portland, Oregon. She conducted her research using the Verdell Burdine & Otto G. Rutherford Collection and illustrates for us how in addition to health services and educational funds, letter writing served as an important community building activity for African American women’s clubs. The Burdine & Rutherford collection is housed at Portland State University and it documents one hundred years of African American community life and culture in Oregon from the 1880s-1980s.
Melissa Lang is completing her master’s degree in history at Portland State University. She’s also the current Secretary of the Portland NAACP’s Executive Committee and the Programs Coordinator for the local non-profit Know Your City, where she coordinates events that utilize art and local history to engage and empower communities within Portland.