Spotlight on An Exemplary Activist
He was born Jan. 14, 1934 in Texarkana TX, the oldest son of Aubrey and Olilah Coleman. He had four younger brothers, two of whom have sadly passed away.
Woodrow was born during the Great Depression in segregated Jim Crow territory. His father worked on the railroad; his mother did housework and childcare for white families. He grew up in a neighborhood with lots of extended family. His later childhood was marred by his mother’s poor health, hospitalized over a year for TB away from her family.
As the oldest, Woodrow worked from a young age. Segregation and racism cut him deeply. He would refuse to go to the rear door of a diner to get food to go no matter how hungry he was. After a serious dispute with an employer, he decided to leave Texas. In LA circa 1955, work and community was possible for a young Black man.
As the civil rights movement started making changes in the South, the same was happening in LA. Woodrow got involved with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality). Two major issues they took on were equality in employment and housing. They used numerous tactics similar to those employed in the South. Many don’t know how segregated LA was by racist housing covenants, dictating who could or couldn’t live in certain areas. They picketed and “died-in” at segregated developments. When businesses wouldn’t hire “Negroes”, CORE picketed until some of that was changed. Woodrow and others started a new organization when they felt CORE was not militant enough.
His activism didn’t end in the ’60s; his awareness of the importance of working in wide coalitions with poor, working class and people of color throughout the area has brought him into many organizations.
Woodrow was married for four years to Bonnie Coleman, they have one son and two grandchildren. As he reaches 85, you’ll still see him passing out leaflets, engaging in dialogue, marching in demonstrations and participating in the on-going struggle for social justice. His commitment is exemplary to many and younger generations. Happy birthday, Woodrow!
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