Tessara Dudley

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

Tessara Dudley

Graduate Fellow
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Discipline: History

Tessara Dudley is an alum of the McNair Scholar Program at Portland State University. She graduated in 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; was 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.

Studying race, class and gender in labor history, Tessara hopes to foster in future students the same love of history that professors brought out in her. Her undergraduate research focused on the experiences of African-descended women in labor and the economy, and she plans to continue this work in graduate school.

Research Interests: Labor Organizing; Race, Class, and Gender in Labor History; 19th, 20th, & 21st Century Black Diaspora; Civil Rights; Decolonization and Nationalism; LGBTQ Community; Disability Studies

Contact: tessaradudley@gmail.com


“Black Women Workers in the World War II Shipyards of Portland and Vancouver”
Tessara Dudley and Dr. Shirley Jackson (faculty mentor)
History Department, Portland State University

World War II was a time of great flux for the United States. To take advantage of lucrative defense jobs, workers migrated to the cities and towns that grew around a wide array of defense industries across the country. For Black women migrants, the war represented an opportunity to escape private domestic service and find more fulfilling careers. While these women were able to make substantive gains in some parts of the country, migrants to other areas found little success. In the Pacific Northwest, a combination of community animosity and labor union obstructionism effectively blocked most Black women from accessing war work. This research examines Black women migrant workers in the World War II shipyards of Portland and Vancouver to reveal the specificity of experience at the intersection of race and gender during this crucial moment in the country’s history. Countering the myth of labor shortages, this work shows the lengths to which unions and employers went to keep Black women workers out, creating divisions in the Black community and hindering the war effort. Rather than gaining fulfilling work, Black women workers in the Portland-area emerged from the war largely restricted to the same kinds of devalued work they had done before the war boom.

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