JOSEPH — It's Black History Month, and the Josephy Center will look at Oregon's own relationship to race and government in a virtual discussion of historian Greg Nokes' "Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory," on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at noon.

Nokes will join this session of the Brown Bag lecture series. Participants do not have to have read the book. The one-hour online gathering is free and open to all.

"Breaking Chains" tells the story of the only slavery case adjudicated in Oregon's pre-Civil War courts: Holmes v. Ford. Through the lens of this landmark case, Nokes explores the historical context of racism in Oregon and the West.

According to a press release from the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture, Nokes drew on court records and offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master. He explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examines attitudes toward race and reveals contradictions in the state's early history.

Oregon came into the Union as a "free state," but it also came in with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans. Many came to Oregon with slaves, and others tolerated slavery and supported politicians who advocated for slavery, including Oregon's first territorial governor.

The Brown Bag discussion will explore the impacts of this on Oregon's subsequent racial history.

"This will be a wide-open Zoom meeting," stated the release. "Bring your questions and concerns, and join us." Find the Zoom link at

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