Tessara Dudley

Academic, artist, and activist telling stories at the intersection of working class Black queer femme disabled life

Tessara Dudley, Portland State University 2017

Majors: Black Studies, Liberal Studies, Social Science
Faculty Mentor: Dr Shirley Jackson

Tessara Dudley is a McNair Scholar at Portland State University. She will be graduating Summer 2017 with majors in Black Studies, Liberal Studies, and Social Science, and minors in Writing, and History.

Tessara brings a deep love of learning and a passion for equity wherever she goes. Determined to explore as much of the world as possible, she has worked in a dental lab, non-profit development and communications, student government, and the Portland State University Queer Resource Center. She started a micro-press in 2015 to publish socially conscious poetry and memoir, is a member of the Bread and Roses Feminist Collective at KBOO Radio, and has written for Black Girl Dangerous, and the Portland Observer. She has led workshops on poetry writing, oral storytelling, community representation, feminist zines, and disability justice.

Applying to doctoral programs in African Diaspora/Atlantic World History, Tessara hopes to foster in future students the same love of history that professors brought out in her. Her research focuses on the lives of African-descended women and illuminates the role these women played in building and sustaining community across the diaspora. Tessara plans to continue this work in graduate school, and to complete a trans-national historical study of African and African-descended women’s participation within informal economies.

Research Interests: 19th, 20th, & 21st Century Black Diaspora, Informal Economy, Women and Gender, Civil Rights, Decolonization and Nationalist Movements, LGBTQ Community, Disability Studies

Contact: tessaradudley@gmail.com


“Working-class Black women’s role in building and sustaining Black communities in the Pacific Northwest”
Tessara Dudley and Dr. Shirley Jackson (faculty mentor)
History Department, Portland State University

In response to the scholarly focus on the historical racism of the Pacific Northwest, this research attempts to answer the question of how Black communities have persisted in the face of discrimination. This study is a historical examination of the roles that Black women have played in building and sustaining Black communities within predominantly white regions, with a specific focus on the Portland-Vancouver area during and after World War II. This work focuses on the activities of working class Black women, a significant proportion of Black women migrating to the Pacific Northwest during World War II, examining their community-building activities in order to understand key factors behind the persistence of these Black communities. The results of this research bridge a gap in the literature, illuminating the particular ways that smaller Black populations negotiated the early stages of transition from Jim Crow politics to the Civil Rights movement. This transition came as a result of mass migration out of the US South, with Black women leaving domestic work and taking their families to the cities of the north and west. By maintaining connections and creating national networks, women were able to establish a base from which to facilitate the migration of waves that followed, fashioning kinship and building resilience into communities. The study shows that the activities of these women laid the groundwork for the militant organizing of the civil rights era.

Curriculum Vitae

View CV in PDF.

Education BA, Portland State University

Majors: Black Studies, Liberal Studies, Social Science

Minors: Writing, History

2017 (Exp.)

Honors & Awards Stephen Epler Scholarship


Research Experience Ronald B. McNair Research Fellowship, Portland State University, Jan. 2017-Aug. 2017

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Shirley Jackson, Black Studies Chair and Professor

Focus: Historical examination of Black working class women in Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., during and after World War II


Employment Queeries Program Coordinator, Portland State University Queer Resource Center

      • developed training curriculum
      • recruited and managed 25 volunteers
      • designed 4 new panel options
      • provided 20 panels to university and Portland-area high school classes


Equal Rights Director, Associated Students of PSU, Portland, OR

      • collaborated with 5 campus resource centers for marginalized student populations
      • participated in 3 lobbying days at the state legislature
      • presented testimony before state legislature
      • oversaw development of 4 interns


Development Communications Intern, Cascade AIDS Project, Portland, OR

      • used Kintera & Constant Contact
      • wrote and sent newsletters to hundreds of supporters
      • created and grew organization’s social media presence
      • worked with 15 event vendors for largest annual fundraising event


Presentations “Working-class Black women’s roles in building and sustaining Black communities in the Pacific Northwest”

Portland State University Undergraduate Research Symposium

May 2017


Selected Courses
    • Imperialisms and “Colonial Laboratories” in Europe and Asia
    • Cultural Geography
    • Reading and Research Seminars in World History: Commodities
    • Colonial Rule and African Response: Partition and Pacification
    • Scientific Racism
    • Women in African Culture and History
    • History of Africa, 1800 to Present
    • Oregon African American History
    • The Black Diaspora
    • History of Ghana up to 1800
    • East African Cultures and Civilizations
    • Writing as Critical Inquiry
    • Historical Imagination
Research Interests 19th, 20th, & 21st Century Black Diaspora, Informal Economy, Women and Gender, Civil Rights, Decolonization and Nationalist Movements, LGBTQ Community, Disability Studies
University Service Queer Students of Color Conference Planning Committee, Portland State University Queer Resource Center


Advisory Board, Portland State University Queer Resource Center


Community Involvement University Choir, Portland State University


Bread and Roses Feminist Radio Collective, KBOO Community Radio


Portland State University Debate Union


Videographer & Interviewer, Vanport Mosaic Project


Tutor, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization


Facilitator, Bridge 13 Community Education Program, Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center


Skills Languages: English, elementary Spanish, elementary Twi (Asante dialect)
Research methods: archival, visual and textual analysis, oral interviews