Harry Edwards was born in St. Louis but grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. After an outstanding career at East St. Louis High, he graduated in 1960 and was awarded an athletic scholarship to San Jose State University from which he graduated in 1964 with high honors. He subsequently was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a University Fellowship to Cornell University where he completed an M.A. and a Ph.D. in sociology. He was on the faculty of California at Berkeley from 1970 – 2001 and currently is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology.
From 1992 through 2001, Dr. Edwards was a consulting inmate counselor at the San Francisco County Jail at San Bruno, California and periodically worked with inmate programs at California’s San Quentin State Prison. From 2001 through 2003, Dr. Edwards was Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City of Oakland, California.
Dr. Edwards also has a long and storied history of activism focused upon developments at the interface of sport, race, and society. The combination of his experiences as an African-American, as an athlete in the 1960’s, and his training in the discipline of sociology led Harry to propose that by the late 1960s America had become very complacent about the issue of race in sports. He ultimately called for a Black athlete boycott of the United States 1968 Olympic team in large part to dramatize the racial inequities and barriers confronting Blacks in sport and society. The movement resulted in demonstrations by Black athletes across the nation and ultimately at the Mexico City games – a movement commemorated by a 24-foot high statue on the campus at San Jose State University.
Years later, Dr. Edwards was to become a consultant on issues of diversity for all three major sports. He was hired by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1987 to help with efforts to increase front office representation of minorities and women in baseball. He also was with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA from 1987 through 1995, specializing in player personnel recruitment and counseling. In 1986, he began work with the San Francisco 49ers in the area of player personnel counseling and programs. The programs and methods that he developed for handling player personnel issues were adopted by the entire NFL in 1992, as was the Minority Coaches’ Internship Program developed by him and Coach Bill Walsh to increase opportunities for minority coaches in the NFL.
Over his career, Harry Edwards has persisted in efforts to compel the sports establishment to confront and to effectively address issues pertaining to diversity and equal opportunity within its rank. Edwards, a scholar-activist who became the spokesperson for what amounted to a revolution in sports, is now considered a leading authority on developments at the interface of race, sport, and society and was a pioneering scholar in the founding of the sociology of sport as an academic discipline.
Dr. Edwards has been a consultant with producers of sports-related programs for numerous television and film productions in the United States and abroad over the last 40 years. He has received dozens of awards and honors, including several honorary doctorate degrees and has been honored by the University of Texas which has established the “Dr. Harry Edwards Lectures”, a permanent series of invited lectures on themes related to sport and society. He has written scores of articles and four books: The Struggle That Must Be, Sociology of Sports, Black Students, The Revolt of the Black Athlete.