The Time Nature And Racism Teamed Up To Wipe Out A Whole Town

March 02, 2015 4:01 PM ET

People stand marooned on housetops in the community of Vanport, Ore. on May 30, 1948 while water swirls through debris of their town.

As the Smithsonian‘s Natasha Geiling reports, Oregon’s history of racism (it was illegal for blacks to move there until 1926) created a “pristine utopia, where land was plentiful and diversity was scarce.” But as World War II saw white males drafted to serve overseas, a labor shortage pulled in a great migration of blacks from the south.

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