The Whatcom Human Rights Task Force was established following a cross-burning at a migrant worker's camp near Lynden, Washington in August 1994. This incident brought concerned individuals and organizations together in defense of local human rights, and to protect community members against discrimination and harassment. The Whatcom Human Rights Task Force (WHRTF) was established to protect and promote human rights including “the right to be treated with dignity and to live without fear of violence, intimidation or discrimination due to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political opinion or other arbitrarily assigned status.” (Source: Mission statement, Whatcom Human Rights Task Force. )
The creation of WHRTF was part of a regional response to hate crimes, and the activities of anti-government militia groups that occurred in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. WHRTF received early direction and support from the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, a non-profit umbrella group founded in 1987.
From its inception, the WHRTF has sought to educate community members about human rights issues, and to advocate for individuals and groups affected by discrimination. The organization adopted the symbol and slogan “Joining Hands Against Hate,” displayed by many supportive individuals and businesses in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
Activities of the WHRTF have included the organization of and participation in marches and vigils, community workshops, and other educational events. Since 1999, the WHRTF has organized an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights conference in Bellingham. WHRTF also holds an annual Awards Banquet honoring members of the community who have made significant contributions relating to human rights issues. As partners in the Whatcom Civil Rights Project, WHRTF staff, interns and volunteers also provide support and referral services for victims of civil rights abuses.
The records of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force document the formation and activities of a community-based organization in Whatcom County, Washington. The collection spans the years 1994 to 2005, and contains administrative and financial records, materials documenting activities and events, newsletters, clippings, and other reference materials.
Administrative records date from 1994 to 2005, and document the early history of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force (WHRTF). They include resolutions regarding the WHRTF's formation, as well as interviews with founding members. The records also contain copies of the organization’s mission statement, bylaws, meeting minutes, and correspondence, which document the group's stance and involvement on various human rights-related issues.
Financial records comprise budget information from 1996 to 2003, and a 2003 annual report. They also contain materials documenting WHRTF activities and events that occurred between 1995 and 2005. Many of these records document preparations and proceedings for the annual Awards Banquet and the Martin Luther King Jr. Conference, including the process of selecting speakers and award recipients, and financial planning. Financial records also document the regional “Not In Our Town” campaign opposing racism and hate crimes in Bellingham, migrant worker appreciation celebrations throughout Whatcom County, and planning and publicity materials for the WHRTF’s monthly film series.
WHRTF newsletters date from 1997 to 2008, and include a small number of newsletters from the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment as well as booklets produced by the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity.
Reference materials and newspaper clippings include a “militia watch” clippings file that details the arrest and prosecution of several militant cells in the Pacific Northwest. Reference materials also include newspaper clippings relating to the WHRTF, pamphlets and publicity materials, and papers written by Western Washington University students about the WHRTF.
The collection also contains a small selection of oversize events posters and display boards containing newspaper clippings and photographs.
Restrictions on Access :
The collection is open to the public.Preferred Citation :
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force records, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The Whatcom Human Rights Task Force records are organized according to the following series arrangement:
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
The "1996 file" (1/4) is a compliation of board correspondence, meeting minutes and historical information abou the WHRTF gathered and generated by Shirley Osterhaus, founding board member and past-president.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.