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Mother of Juneteenth Honored

11/24/2015, 4:48 p.m.
Clara Peoples, a late beloved community leader, educator, and mother of Portland’s annual Juneteenth celebration, was posthumously honored with a ...
Clara Peoples (left); and a photo from the recent Spirit of Portland Awards Ceremony with Clara Peoples’ niece Debra Ingram holding her aunt’s posthumous Lifetime Achieve Award and other family members pictured (from left) Laura Jacobs and Ruth Scurlock, Peoples’ sisters; Jenelle Jack, a granddaughter; and Marsha Peoples Jack, a daughter.

Clara Peoples, a late beloved community leader, educator, and mother of Portland’s annual Juneteenth celebration, was posthumously honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at last week’s Spirit of Portland Awards Ceremony. Family members stepped forward to accept the award on behalf of Peoples, who died Oct. 5 at the age of 89.

Born in Muskogee, Okla. on Sept. 8 1926, Peoples grew up with a passion for community service and spread her efforts to Oregon when she moved here in 1945.

Peoples was surprised to learn that Juneteenth, the celebration of the end of American slavery, was not celebrated in this part of the country. She introduced the holiday to her fellow workers at the Kaiser Shipyards, and later helped to initiate Portland's annual citywide Juneteenth celebration in 1972.

She eventually became known as Portland’s “Mother of Juneteenth.” She also gave years of service as an active and dedicated community leader. She was a counselor at the former John Adams High School in northeast Portland and she helped fight hunger in our community as well as multiple other good works.

The award shows Peoples continues to be a guiding influence for a community that loved her, and her living relatives were proud to honor her work in the community for this year’s Portland Spirit Awards.