Taylor v. Cohn – One historical example of racial discrimination in Oregon theaters

S. Morton Cohn, as described in an excerpt from Los Angeles Herald titled “Theatrical Magnate May Move Here,” states, “The biggest realty operator in Portland, Oregon; a prominent theatrical magnate with interests in New York, Chicago and San Francisco and is a millionaire several times over.” The excerpt continues to praise Cohn in his endeavors and welcomes him to the city of Los Angeles. Back in Oregon, Cohn owned many theaters and was also known as a very rich man in the theater industry. While Cohn can be noted for bringing many theaters to Oregon which was arguably very beneficial for the industry in Oregon, not every Oregon citizen was able to enjoy his theaters. 

In 1904, Oliver Taylor, a black man in Oregon, bought a ticket at one of Cohn’s theaters. However, upon trying to actually take his seat, Cohn refused Taylor his seat. Taylor later sued Cohn for “Refusal to Permit Use of Ticket” on the basis of racial discrimination. The case first went to trial court where it was quickly thrown out on the notion that Taylor did not have a claim for the reimbursement of his ticket. Later, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed this saying that Taylor did in fact have a claim of breach of contract in the form of his purchased movie ticket. Unfortunately though, they dismissed his claims of humiliation and inconvenience. In 1906, the case was finally settled in the trial courts again where Taylor was reimbursed only for his ticket cost and nothing else. 

Examples of racial discrimination in Oregon is absolutely not limited to this instance. There are many, many, many more examples throughout Oregon’s history. It is important to understand these faults of the state and not ignore the racist history. In the instance of Taylor v. Cohn, this case brought forth a comfortability for further racial discrimination in the state, especially in the theater business, making it very difficult for black Oregonians the chance to enjoy films.