As many of you may know, February is Black History Month and in honor of this important month we would like to highlight someone who is a very important part of Portland’s Black history: Louisa Flowers! Many of you will recognize the name from the apartment building at NE Holladay and Grand, but do you know much about the building’s namesake?
Louisa Flowers was a well respected African American civic leader and pioneer who settled in Portland in the late 1800s despite laws that discouraged Black people from being here at all. Anti-Black sentiments were very common at the time and led to discriminatory practices in housing, employment, and voting rights. Regardless of these intense challenges, Louisa was able to build a successful life for her family and her community.
In addition to raising four boys, Louisa was heavily involved in civic work. She was a founding member of the Williams YMCA (now known as the Billy Webb Elks Lodge), was deeply engaged with the NAACP and was also a deaconess of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Additionally, Louisa was a member of the Old Rose Club, which raised college scholarship money for young women. Her husband, Allen was appointed to the Negro Farmers Congress by Gov. Oswald West and played a key role in bringing Booker T. Washington to speak in Portland.
Louisa’s family was one of the very first Black families to own property on the eastside of Portland. They operated a farm and built homes near what is now known as The Louisa Flowers Affordable Housing building. They did this near Mt. Scott in the Lents neighborhood where they raised horses and grew raspberries in what became a gathering spot for black community life in Portland. Because of how much an inspiration Louisa Flowers and her family was to the Portland community, The Louisa Flowers Affordable Housing building aims to carry on that legacy. Located in Lloyd, it is the largest affordable housing development built in Portland in the last five decades, comprising 240 affordable units.
We encourage you to learn more about Black history, not just this month, but every month. A great resource to check out is https://oregonblackpioneers.org. Do you have any piece of local Black history that you learned and would like to share with us? If so, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, as always, we would love to hear from you!