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Elaine J. Coates oral history

 Collection 0540-UA

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.


  • August 20, 2019

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.


284 Megabytes

Scope and Contents

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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.

Guide to the Elaine J. Coates oral history
Finding aid created by Joanne Archer and Lae'l Hughes-Watkins. Transcript created by Benjamin Shaw.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742