American Legal History

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No Suffrage, Little Attention; Nonetheless, Some Prosperity


 A wealthy half-Black war veteran and frontiersman named George Washington Bush altered the course of history in the Pacific Northwest. Bush was among the first Oregon Trail settlers in present-day Washington. Racism persisted north of the Columbia River, yet policies in Washington Territory were more conducive to Black prosperity than contemporaneous laws in Oregon Territory. Between 1844–1870, small Black enclaves established livelihoods in hardscrabble Washington Territory. The Bush family became prominent. In comparison, Oregon Territory enforced two “Black Exclusion” laws, and its constitution codified abject White supremacy.

Given that Washington Territory’s legislature demonstrated greater interracial tolerance compared to its southern neighbors, did any Black men vote in Washington?

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