Elaine J. Coates was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September the 15th, 1937. She is the daughter of a railroad porter and a domestic worker. Coates grew up in Baltimore and went to the segregated Frederick Douglass High School. After the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, Coates decided she wanted to go to the University of Maryland (UMD) in 1955. She became the university's first African-American female undergraduate to complete her degree in 1959.
In 2019, Coates became the inaugural recipient of an award in her name, meant to recognize an individual who has made significant contributions to fostering diversity and inclusion nationally and globally. In this interview, she details her experiences as an African American student on campus in the aftermath of desegregation, racist encounters with students and faculty, and her relentless persistence to become a graduate of UMD.
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This collection consists of one oral history conducted by University Archivist, Lae'l Hughes-Watkins, with Elaine J. Coates, the first female African American student at the University of Maryland. An audio recording of the interview as well as a transcript are available.
The oral history was conducted by University Archivist Lae'l Hughes-Watkins with Elaine J. Coates on August 20, 2019 in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.