cover image The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

Sarah L. Sanderson. Waterbrook, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-44473-3

In this thought-provoking debut, journalist Sanderson unpacks the legacy of Oregon’s 1844–1926 racial exclusion laws, which “banned Black people from... being within [the state’s] borders.” Sanderson became curious when she stumbled on an unfamiliar name while researching another topic—James Vanderpool, who was legally removed from Oregon for being Black in 1851. With few records available, she turned her search toward the four men responsible for Vanderpool’s arrest: John McLoughlin, Theophilus Magruder, Thomas Nelson, and Ezra Fisher, all of them pioneers who are memorialized in the Oregon State Capitol Senate chambers. Aware that Fisher was a relative (she later learned she shared an ancestor with Magruder), Sanderson set out to understand how “racism [had] warped the minds, imaginations, and behaviors of those who took it upon themselves to master Oregon.” Along the way, she reflects on her own relationship as a white woman to the state’s racial present and past. While Sanderson’s narrative makes for occasionally uncomfortable reading, as when she discovered her ingrained racism on a mission trip (“I first realized White supremacy lived in me on my first morning in Malawi.... I wanted to spend myself on behalf of the needy, but I was about the discover the depths of my own neediness”), she offers an admirably candid self-examination and an insightful look at an underdocumented episode of racism in American history. It’s worth checking out. (Aug.)