Dr. Edwin Coleman Jr. (1932-2017), a UO professor, musician, and civil rights and community activist, was instrumental in introducing African American literature courses to the UO and to the formation of the university’s Ethnic Studies Department, now known as UO Indigenous, Race and Ethnic Studies.
He joined the English faculty in 1971 soon after earning his PhD in theatre and communication from the UO. He taught some of his classes here at Prince Lucien Campbell Hall.
Born in rural Arkansas, Coleman grew up with the segregation and discrimination of the Jim Crow South. In his teens he moved with his family to the San Francisco area where he lived in racially segregated housing.
He played violin as a child and later, as a young man, he joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves and learned how to play the bass. Over the years, Coleman played in various groups and had the opportunity to back up Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz greats. He also toured with the folk trio Peter Paul and Mary.
Coleman taught, mentored and advocated for students at the UO for over 30 years. He also left a legacy in the Eugene community through his work with the Democratic Party of Lane County, the naming of MLK Jr. Blvd. and the dedication of Rosa Parks Plaza in downtown Eugene.
After his death in 2017, the Westmoreland Park Community Center was named in Coleman’s honor. (Learn more on the Strides for Social Justice Westmoreland Route.)
Directions to next location
Head north on Kincaid Street. Turn right on E. 13th Avenue. Turn right when you see the sign for Erb Memorial Student Union.