Who We Are
The Urban League of Portland, founded in 1945, is a non-profit, community-based organization headquartered in North Portland and an affiliate of the National Urban League.
Our mission is to empower African Americans and other Oregonians to achieve equality in education, employment, and economic security.
Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically under-served urban communities. The Urban League movement carries out its mission at the local, state and national levels through direct services, advocacy, research, policy analysis, community education and mobilization, coalitions and collaborations, and communications. As an early advocate for fair housing and employment, the Urban League was instrumental in helping to shape the city of Portland we know today. Key Urban League participants have become familiar names in regional history: Mercedes Deiz, Oregon’s first black female attorney and judge; Dr. DeNorval Unthank, an early founder of the League; and Bill Hilliard, retired editor of The Oregonian. The Urban League has enjoyed the support of such community leaders as journalist turned politician, Governor Tom McCall, Governor Douglas McKay and Oregon’s distinguished statesman, the Honorable Mark O. Hatfield, former state representative, Governor and U.S. Senator.
In 2007, the Urban League of Portland selected the Oregon State University Libraries as the repository for our historical records. The records placed at OSU document the administration and programs of the Urban League of Portland since its establishment in 1945. The Records include correspondence, reports and publications, meeting minutes, financial records, and clippings as well as scrapbooks, photographs, videotapes, and sound recordings. They document the administration of the organization and reflect the League’s outreach to the community through various programs and activities, fundraising, interaction with the National Urban League, and African American life in Portland. The reports include annual and presidential reports; histories of the League; and reports on race relations in Portland, African American children in Portland, and Northeast Portland neighborhood revitalization. The publications include League newsletters, brochures, and reports on various topics from the National Urban League office and branches in other cities. Click here to download a report about the first fifty years of the Urban League of Portland.