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The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

Current price: $25.00
Publication Date: August 15th, 2023
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A thoughtful investigation into the incredible true story of a Black man convicted and exiled under the Oregon Exclusion Law in 1851—and a contemporary White woman wrestling with racism and faith after learning she’s a descendant of two men who assisted in the exile.

“A beautiful rendering of an ugly history. A worthy read.”—Chanté Griffin, advocate, journalist, and author


Moving back to the outskirts of Portland, called the “Whitest city in America,” prompted Sarah’s curiosity about the colonization of the West, her ancestors, and the legal exile of a Black man. She examined four city leaders involved in Jacob Vanderpool’s case—Oregon City’s founder, the case judge, Jacob’s accuser, and a local pastor—and the cultural and theological fallout of their decisions. Along the way, Sarah took a hard look at her tendencies, unconscious and deliberate, to ignore the possibility of prejudice in her heart. 

Vanderpool’s case proved a fascinating lens on a far bigger story than one trial, illuminating truths to help us all come to honest terms with our past, learn to repent, and contribute to the good of the people and places around us.

Journey through this sensitive expedition into the events that remain a thorn under America’s skin and discover afresh the vast potential of the flawed but endlessly redeemable—human heart.

About the Author

Sarah L. Sanderson holds a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University, a master’s in teaching from Seattle University, and a bachelor of English and philosophy from Wheaton College. For the past eight years, she and her family—including her husband, their four children, her brother, and the family’s two dogs—have made their home in Oregon. These days, her pursuits include writing, speaking, teaching creative writing, learning to pray, and building a beloved community.

Praise for The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

“Through her own story, written in beautiful prose, Sarah demonstrates that we do not live in an historical vacuum. On the contrary, the specters of American history will only be laid to rest when we acknowledge their presence in the past and present.”—Marlena Graves, author of The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself

“Ambitious in scope, The Place We Make is part cultural and geographic history, part spiritual memoir, with thoroughly researched original source documents and contemporary voices. The structure of the book alternates between historical profiles from Vanderpool’s context and Sanderson’s personal moves from the places of ignorance, silence, and exclusion toward empathy, self-disclosure, and community. It is no small task to write as a confessional Christian while clearly identifying the numerous ways Christianity has served to create and perpetuate white supremacy. Sanderson tackles this challenge with humility, often citing theologians and Christians of color who have been wrestling with this paradox from the beginning of colonial modernity.”—Sojourners

“A beautiful rendering of an ugly historya worthy read.”—Chanté Griffin, advocate, journalist, and author

“The Place We Make
offers a compelling model for the way in which we all might understand our own stories and the way these stories are shaped—for good and ill—by those who came before us.”—Karen Swallow Prior, PhD, author of The Evangelical Imagination

“Few will dare to make an exploration so honest and humble as the one in these pages.”—Melissa Moore, co-author of Now That Faith Has Come

“Sarah has done a beautiful job in weaving painful historical moments and her faith in a way that invites you in and causes you to think.”—Robert Monson, enfleshed co-director, writer, and theologian

“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, researching another topic, she stumbled on an unfamiliar name—Jacob Vanderpool, who was legally removed from Oregon for being Black in 1851. . . . She offers an admirably candid self-examination and an insightful look at an under-documented episode of racism in American history. It’s worth checking out.”—Publishers Weekly