African American History

This tour highlights important African American individuals through historical sites on the University of Oregon campus, including many firsts on campus, such as the first African American students, graduates, athletes, faculty and staff.

Wiley Griffon

Wiley Griffon (1867–1913) was the first African American employee at the University of Oregon. In the late 1890s he worked as a janitor at the men’s dormitory, Friendly Hall. Although, he was niether the first nor the only African American in Eugene,…

Mabel Byrd

After graduating from Washington High School in Portland in 1914, Mabel Byrd made history as the first African American enrolled at the University of Oregon. Byrd matriculated at the UO in 1917 as a student majoring in economics and spent two years…

Maxine Maxwell

Maxine was raised in Salem, Oregon and was a member of a resilient family that was highly respected and well known. Her father, Charles Maxwell, was a successful businessman who operated the restaurant “Fat Boy Barbecue” and a shoeshine shop in the…

Nellie Louise Franklin

Similar to the first African American student at the University of Oregon, Mabel Byrd, Nellie Louise Franklin lived in Portland, Oregon, attended Washington High School, and would eventually attend the University of Oregon. However, what sets these…

William Sherman Savage

After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree from Howard University in Washington, DC in 1917, William Sherman Savage came to Eugene in 1924 to continue graduate work in history. Two years later, he was the first African American to graduate with…

Bobby Robinson and Charles Williams

In the fall of 1926, the same year that Oregon finally repealed its exclusion law that forbade blacks from entering or owning property in Oregon, 19-year-old Bobby Robinson and 22-year-old Charles Williams, two young high school football stars from…

The Black Student Union

In 1966, students created the Black Student Union (BSU) to bring awareness to racial discrimination and to serve as a coalescing group for activism regarding these issues. Indeed, in April 1968, the BSU submitted a list of grievances and demands to…

Clifford F. Johnson

Clifford F. Johnson was raised in Illinois and decided to join the U.S. Army after graduating from high school. While in the army, Johnson served at Fort Lewis, Washington during World War II. During his time there, he faced racial segregation.…

Ed Coleman

Dr. Edwin Leon Coleman II left an enduring legacy at the University of Oregon and in the Eugene community as an educator, musician, civil rights activist, writer, community and campus organizer, and perhaps most importantly, a friend and advocate of…
Thanks to the following contributors and student groups:

Black Student Union

Black Alumni

Herman Brame