African Americans in Portland, Maine, in the 1940s and 1950s made up less than 0.5% of the population. As a consequence, discourse on race was more subtle than it was in other parts of the country. The Portland black community, as in other small northern New England cities, lacked the numbers for broad public or political action. Instead, African Americans developed individual and informal strategies of resistance aimed at broadening opportunities in education, employment, and housing. African Americans “made it work” by congregating in their own church, persevering in their own educational goals, operating their own businesses, and owning their own homes. Using largely oral history collections, this article argues that the racism was part of Portland life as it was elsewhere, albeit less visible, and that African Americans found subtle but creative ways of confronting it. The author earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Cologne in Germany and is now a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Maine. For his dissertation, he researches the dialectic between rural sense of belonging and modernization in nineteenth-century Western Maine and the Sauerland in Germany.
Hillebrand, Justus. "Making it Work Before the Movement: African-American Community and Resistance in 1940s and 1950s Portland, Maine." Maine History 49, 1 (2015): 39-76. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mainehistoryjournal/vol49/iss1/3