My Contribution: I was an activist and politician who devoted my life to securing democracy for all people. I was a founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Colored Branch of the YWCA in November of 1919, before its formal organization in 1920. Appointed as Pennsylvania’s first Interracial Consultant by Governor Pinchot, I worked with many labor industries throughout Pennsylvania to ensure the employment and safe working environment for African Americans. My successful intervention in racial clashes in Pennsylvania, led to similar work in Detroit and Lansing Michigan. In 1947, I wrote The History of the Negro in Pennsylvania, published by the Department of Welfare.
My Legacy: I advocated for the rights of women of color and committed my life to the activist work of interracial reconciliation that still continues today. I was Honored by the Francis Harper Club in Harrisburg in 1926 (“Harrisburg Club Honors Coleman,” Pittsburgh Courier). Several organizations named their groups with my name including the Maude Coleman council (Philly Tribune, 1957), the Maude B. Coleman Republican Women of Montgomery County Council, and a community center in Easton, PA (Afro-American, January 21, 1933).
Memorable Quotes: “Maude Coleman is a woman thoroughly equipped along political lines, having engaged in political, social service, and Y.W.C.A work…” (Harrisburg Telegraph, 1920)
Full Name: Maude B. (Deering) Coleman
Birth Date: c. 1879
Death Date: February 25, 1953
Place of Birth: Sparrowsville, VA
Race: “Mulatto” (1910 and 1920 Federal Censuses), “Negro”-Black (1930 and 1940 Federal Censuses)
Places of Residence: 129 Short Street, 8th Ward, Harrisburg (before 1912); 641 Boas Street, 7th Ward, Harrisburg (1920-1953).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: I resided in the Old Eighth Ward for part of my life at 129 Short Street. I advocated for communities of color displaced by the Capitol Complex Extension Project which relocated residents from the Old Eighth and, eventually, the Seventh Ward. I petitioned Governor Duff in 1950: “[O]ur position, Governor Duff, is not like that of other groups. It is absolutely impossible for us to rent or buy property in Harrisburg in any decent neighborhood because of all kinds of restrictions.”
Family Members: Husband: John W. Coleman (Feb 25, 1865-Feb 28, 1948) m. September 3rd, 1897. Child: Priscilla Coleman, died in infancy (African American National Biography).
Education: Graduate of University of Washington, Oberlin College, Pennsylvania School of Social Work (“New Council Honors Coleman,” Philly Tribune).
Occupations: I worked for 32 years as the Special Inter-Racial Consultant for the State Welfare Department. In 1920, I was a founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Colored Harrisburg Branch of the YWCA. I was the first African-American tax collector in the country, according to a Pittsburgh Courier article in 1926, and the sole “female delinquent tax collector” in Pennsylvania (Chicago Defender 1935).
Church Membership: I was married at First Baptist Church in Harrisburg and honored with “Maude B. Coleman Day” at Bethel AME Church in 1926. My husband John Coleman was a member of Capital Presbyterian Church. I was Superintendent of Sunday School at Capital Presbyterian. My funeral service was held at Wesley Union AME Zion Church with Rev. Garrett Lee (Capital Presbyterian) and Rev. B.T. Glasco (Berean Presbyterian, Philadelphia) officiating. I was buried at William Howard Day cemetery alongside my husband.
Activism: I was on the executive board of the Dauphin County Republican Women’s Organization and was appointed the Dauphin County Organizer of Colored Women, member of the Republican City Committee, member of local American Red Cross and Seattle Red Cross Auxiliary, and member of the Rebecca Aldridge Civic Club of Harrisburg. I was the guest speaker in Harrisburg schools during “National Negro History Week” in 1940 and President of the Auxiliary to Harrisburg’s branch of the NAACP.
State-wide, I was appointed by Republicans as the State Organizer of Colored Women by the State Committee of Pennsylvania; served as the District Vice President of the State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and as State Treasurer and Vice President of the Pennsylvania Association of Colored Women; and taught and served as a social worker and member of the Pennsylvania State Organization of Social Workers. Nationally, I was a member of the Women’s National Republican Organization and the Negro Women’s Republican League, served on the advisory board of Bethune-Cookman College in Florida, and directed the Color Women’s Eastern Division of the Republican Party (Obituary, Philadelphia Tribune, 1953;Afro-American, 1935;“guest speaker”, Pittsburgh Courier, 1940; and biography).
Connections: James M. Auter (son of James M. Auter, 100 Voices) was a contemporary in the State Department. A. Dennee Bibb and Dorothy Curtis lived nearby. A. Dennee ran alongside me for office for the Republican party in 1934 and spoke at similar events. Two children of Cassius Brown, Ida and Cassius Brown Jr. were elected to a management committee for the Phyllis Wheatley Branch in 1921 while I was Executive Secretary. I participated in a speaking series put on by the local branch of the NAACP with others such as Charles Crampton and A. Dennee Bibb (“Coleman and Bibb Speakers”). John P. Scott spoke at an event honoring me (“Harrisburg Club Honors Coleman” Pittsburgh Courier, 1926). I served on the same census committee as Charles Crampton (“Maude Coleman Census Committee”).
The template above is part of the 100 Voices of the Commonwealth Monument Project, a project of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism, sponsored by the Foundation for Enhancing Community and supported by a Council of Independent Colleges Humanities for the Public Good grant. Matt Jenkins, a Center for Public Humanities Fellow at Messiah College, researched and wrote the template; Katie Wingert McArdle, Jean Corey, and David Pettegrew edited the content for online publication. The Messiah College team was supported by a Council of Independent Colleges Humanities for the Public Good grant.
The following sources were used to create the biographical template above. The name of the file records the date of original publication and the newspaper designation. These newspaper abbreviations as well as the database sources are: AFR = The Afro-American (ProQuest); COU = Courier (ProQuest); EVE = The Evening News (Newspapers.com); HDI = Harrisburg Daily Independent (Newspapers.com); PIC = Pittsburgh Courier (ProQuest); PHT = Philadelphia Tribute (ProQuest); TEL = Harrisburg Telegraph (Newspapers.com). In addition, three letters exchanged between Maude Coleman and the governor of Pennsylvania (abbreviated PSA) were kindly provided courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives. We include images of sources below in chronological order.
1950-2-20_PSA_Coleman-Letter-to-Governor, 1950-2-28_PSA_Governor-Letter, and 1951-1-11_PSA_Letter-to-Governor