James Smoot Coleman
Born(1919-02-04)February 4, 1919
Provo, Utah
DiedApril 20, 1985(1985-04-20) (aged 66)
Los Angeles
Alma materHarvard University
Brigham Young University
InstitutionsUniversity of California at Los Angeles
University of Dar es Salaam
University of Nairobi
Makerere University College
Main interests
African studies

James Smoot Coleman (4 February 1919 – 20 April 1985) was an American scholar, professor and administrator in political science, but more specifically in African studies. He is noted for two of his books, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism[1] and Education and Political Development[2] which have been called "classics of scholarship".[3]


Coleman was born in Provo, Utah, to a Mormon family, son of Jacob Coleman and Allie Smoot Coleman. He graduated from Brigham Young High School in 1936. He enrolled in Brigham Young University, but interrupted his college education to join the U.S. Army in 1941, and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel before resigning in 1946 after the end of World War II.[4] Coleman received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in 1947 and his master's (1948). He received a doctorate in (1953) from Harvard University. He was a teaching fellow at Harvard from 1949 to 1950, and again in 1953. In 1953, he became an instructor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and soon was appointed as an assistant professor. In 1963 he was president of the African Studies Association.[5]

Coleman was the first director of the UCLA African Studies Center from its founding in 1959 until 1965. From 1965 to 1978, Coleman spent over twelve years as a university administrator in Africa. First in 1965 he was Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University College at the University of East Africa in Uganda. In 1967 he moved to Kenya to assume the position as Director for the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi. Finally he went to the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. From 1967 to 1978, while in Africa, Coleman was an associate director of the Rockefeller Foundation and served as its representative for East Africa and Zaire.[6]

Coleman returned to UCLA in 1978 as a full professor in political science and as chair of the UCLA Council on International and Comparative Studies (CICS). As head of CICS he was instrumental in leading the Southern California Consortium for International Studies from 1978 until his death in 1985.[7] In 1984 he became the first director of UCLA's International Studies and Overseas Programs (ISOP) (now known as UCLA's International Institute).[3]

Coleman married Margaret Tate on 4 February 1944, and they had two sons. On 20 June 1965, Coleman married Ursula Finken. Coleman died suddenly of a heart attack in Los Angeles on 20 April 1985.

Awards and honors


  1. ^ Coleman, James Smoot (1958) Nigeria: Background to Nationalism University of California Press, Berkeley, OCLC 166245; reprinted in 1963, 1971 and 1986.
  2. ^ Coleman, James Smoot (1965) Education and Political Development Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., OCLC 78409645
  3. ^ a b Matthews, Kevin (2005) "Remembering James Smoot Coleman" UCLA African Studies Center 11 October 2005, accessed 29 December 2008
  4. ^ a b Marquis Who's Who (1993) "James Smoot Coleman: 1919- " Who Was Who in America: A component volume of Who's Who in American History Volume 11, 1993-1996 ; Who's Who in American History Marquis, online version accessed 30 December 2008
  5. ^ "Presidents of the African Studies Association" African Studies Association, accessed 30 December 2008
  6. ^ Salamone, Frank (2000) "The International African Institute: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Development of British Social Anthropology in Africa" Transforming Anthropology 9(1): pp. 19-29
  7. ^ Haro, Carlos Manuel (2001) "Commemoration of the 30th Year of SOCCIS" The Southern California Consortium for International Studies (newsletter), Anniversary edition 2002 Archived 2007-08-27 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 30 December 2008
  8. ^ "Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award" American Political Science Association Archived 2015-05-18 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 29 December 2008
  9. ^ "Changes in the Membership 1965-1966" Records of the Academy (American Academy of Arts and Sciences) No. 1965/1966, pp. 48-50, p.49 lists James Smoot Coleman as a new member, in "Section 3 Political Science", as of 11 May 1966
  10. ^ "African Studies Center Newsletter", accessed 29 December 2008