Portland COINTELPRO

Reckoning, and walking, with Portland’s past

In the 1960s Kent Ford helped found the city's Black Panther Party. Now he leads walking tours of the Albina District, linking past and future.

“I can’t tell you where we are going,” Mr. Kent Ford proclaimed while walking down the streets of North Portland’s Albina District followed by an attentive tour group, “but I can tell you where we’ve been.” 

Mr. Ford, 77, moved into Portland’s Albina District in 1961, when it was the heart of Portland’s Black community. In the ’60s he was a founder of the city’s Black Panther Party. Now he serves as a link between Black Portland’s past, present, and future, keeping alive what’s happened and teaching new generations through his walking tours.

We don’t always get the chance to engage history in the more intimate sense. More often than not we go about acknowledging history’s constant knocking on our front doors by sitting in a classroom or reading books and news stories. 

Mr. Kent Ford, bringing the history home. Photo: Brandon Chadney

Sometimes, though, we are lucky enough to experience history in the more intimate way— to not just acknowledge it, but also to open our doors and invite it into our home. When we invite history in, often by visiting hallowed grounds or listening to someone share stories about surviving a historic time, we invite an emotional connection with the past, not just an intellectual one. 

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