Resources: The John A Williams Papers and a Chronology

Collection Overview
Title: John A. Williams papers
Creator: Williams, John A., 1925-2015
Call Number: D.293
Dates: 1925-2015
Physical Description: 179 boxes, 1 folder
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Finding Aid: 
John A. Williams Papers Finding Aid

CHRONOLOGY


1925: Williams is born in Jackson, Mississippi, to Ola May Jones Williams [Page] and John Henry Williams, the first of four children.

1926 -1943: From six months of age, Williams is raised in Syracuse, New York, in the Fifteenth Ward. He attends Washington Irving Elementary, Madison Junior High, and Central High School.

1943: Enlists in the United States Navy, pharmacist's mate 3/C, and, during World War II, serves in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1946, when Williams receives an honorable discharge.

1946: Finishes high school and enrolls at Syracuse University. Begins doing general reporting and features, which continues until 1955, for publications such as The Progressive Herald, Post-Standard and Herald-Journal, Syracuse, New York; The Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, Los Angeles Tribune, and New York Village Voice. Writes Book Reviews in sources cited above as well as The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times, Essence, American Visions, Fiction International, Quarterly Black Review, Multicultural Review, and Small Press Review from 1946 to 1993.

1947: Marries Carolyn Clopton in Syracuse, New York.

1948: First son, Gregory D. Williams, is born.

1950: Receives Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism from Syracuse University and begins graduate school.

1951: Second son, Dennis A. Williams, is born. Williams holds positions in foundry and supermarket.

1952: Begins work as caseworker at the Onondaga County Welfare Department.

1953: Self-publishes Poems in Syracuse, New York.

1954: Williams and Carolyn Clopton separate. Moves to California, where Williams' works at the life insurance company Gold State Mutual, as well as for CBS and NBC-TV publicity special events.* Moves to New York City.

1955: Works for Columbia Broadcasting System for special events programs. Becomes Publicity Director for Comet Books Press. Completes first and second drafts of The Angry Ones.*

1956: Edits and publishes the Negro Market Newsletter until 1957.

1957: Divorces Carolyn Clopton. Becomes Assistant to the Publisher at Abelard-Schuman until 1958. Becomes Director of Information for the American Committee on Africa, where he writes press releases and arranges press conferences for Kwame Nkrumah, Joost de Blank, Eduardo Mondlane, Tom Mboya, and Nmadi Azikwe.

1958: Based in Barcelona, reports on touring black entertainers and events of interest to African-American readers for Jet MagazineEbony, and the Associated Negro Press.

1959: Covers special events and personalities in studio or via remote for WOV Radio New York.

1960: One for New York (also known as The Angry Ones) is published by Ace Books. Organizes rally in Madison Square Garden for The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.

1961: Night Song is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

1962: Prix de Rome controversy, in which Williams' nomination for the Fellowship was rejected by the American Academy in Rome, documented by Williams in his essay, "We Regret to Inform You"; receives grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Edits The Angry Black, published by Lancer Books.

1963: Sissie is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Africa: Her History, Lands & People is published by Cooper Square Press. Writes pieces on politics and race in the United States and Europe for Holiday Magazine until 1966. Acts as Contributing Editor at Herald-Tribune Book Week until 1965.

1964: The Protectors, written for Harry Anslinger, is published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. On Special Assignment in Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Zaire for Newsweek.

1965: Marries Lorrain Isaac on October 5th. This Is My Country Too is published by New American Library/World. Writes and narrates WNET's Omowale: The Child Returns Home on location in Nigeria.

1966: Co-producer/writer/narrator of WNET's The Creative Person: Henry Roth, on location in Spain.

1967: Third son, Adam J. Williams, is born. The Man Who Cried I Am is published by Little, Brown & Co. Edits Beyond the Angry Black, published by Cooper Square Press. Sweet Love, Bitter, adapted from Night Song, is made into a film by Film 2 Associates.

1968: Lecturer in Creative/Article Writing at the City College of New York, City University of New York, and Lecturer in Literature at the College of the Virgin Islands. Weekly interviewer of newsmakers on "Newsfront," including Erskine Caldwell, Muhammud Ali, and Eldridge Cleaver, for WNET Television (PBS).

1969: Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light is published by Little, Brown & Co.

1970: The King God Didn't Save: Martin Luther King, Jr. is published by Coward McCann. The Most Native of Sons: Richard Wright is published by Doubleday. Co-edits Amistad 1, published by Random House, with Charles Harris. Awarded the Centennial Medal For Outstanding Achievement from Syracuse University. Visiting Professor at Macalester College. Serves on the Editorial Board of Audience Magazine.

1971: Co-edits Amistad 2, published by Random House, with Charles Harris. Visits Grenada, West Indies, for the first time.*

1972: Captain Blackman is published by Doubleday. Regents Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1972, and Guest Writer at Sarah Lawrence College during the 1972-1973 academic year. Works as Contributing Editor at The American Journal until 1974.

1973: Flashbacks: A 20-Year Diary of Article Writing is published by Doubleday. Receives The Richard Wright-Jacques Roumain Award. Distinguished Professor at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York from 1973 to 1979.

1974: Distinguished Visiting Professor at Cooper Union during the 1974-1975 academic year. Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii during the Summer semester.

1975: Mothersill and the Foxes is published by Doubleday. Minorities in the City is published by Harper & Row.

1976: The Junior Bachelor Society is published by Doubleday.

1977: Works as Contributing Editor at Politicks. Awarded Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment For The Arts.

1978: Awarded Honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Southeastern Massachusetts University. Visiting Professor at Boston University during the 1978-1979 academic year. Williams is contributing Editor for Y'bird #2, an Ishmael Reed/Al Young publication.

1979: Accepts position as Professor at Rutgers University.

1980: Works as Contributing Editor at the Journal of African Civilizations until 1988. Visits Grenada under new government and takes first trip to Kenya.*

1981: Last Flight From Ambo Ber is presented by Peoples Theater in Boston. The Sophisticated Gents mini-series, adapted from The Junior Bachelor Society, airs on NBC-TV.

1983: Last Flight From Ambo Ber is published by the American Association for Ethiopian Jews. Receives an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for!Click Song. Becomes United State Observer at the 23rd Premio Casa Awards in Santiago, Cuba.

1985: The Berhama Account is published by New Horizon Press, and the first edition of Introduction to Literature, co-edited with Gilbert Muller, is published by McGraw-Hill. Receives the New Jersey State Council On The Arts Award.

1986: Exxon Visiting Professor at New York University during the 1986-1987 academic year.

1987: Jacob's Ladder is published by Thunder's Mouth Press. Frequently writes opinion pieces on all topics for The Los Angeles Times until 1989. Receives Distinguished Writer Award from the Middle Atlantic Writers Association and the "Michael Award" from the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame. John A. Williams Archive established at the University of Rochester, and John A. Williams: An Exhibition is held at UR from November 1987 to April 1988. Williams' mother, Ola Page, dies.

1988: February 2 proclaimed as John Williams Day in the City of Syracuse, New York. Receives Citation from the City of Philadelphia. John A. Williams Archive Exhibit held at Syracuse University.

1989: Receives Carter G. Woodson Award from Mercy College. John A. Williams Archive Exhibit held at Rutgers University.

1990: Becomes Paul Robeson Professor of English at Rutgers University. Williams' father, John Henry Williams, dies.

1991: If I Stop I'll Die: The Comedy and Tragedy of Richard Pryor is published by Thunder's Mouth Press. August Forty-five is presented by Rutgers University.

1992: Way B(l)ack Then and Now: A Street Guide to African Americans in Paris, first edition, co-edited with Michel Fabre, is published by CEAA in Paris.

1994: Retires from Rutgers University. Bridges: Literature Across Cultures and Ways In: Approaches to Literature, both co-edited with Gilbert Muller, and Introduction to Literature, second edition, co-edited with Gilbert Muller, are published by McGraw-Hill. Visiting Professor at Bard College during 1994-95 academic year. Visiting Professor at the University of Houston.

1995: Receives Doctor of Letters from Syracuse University.

1996: Second edition of A Street Guide to African Americans in Paris, co-edited with Michel Fabre, is published by CEAA in Paris.

1998: Safari West is published by Hochelaga Press. Inducted into the National Literary Hall of Fame. Receives American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation forSafari West.

1999: Clifford's Blues is published by Coffee House Press. Vanqui libretto, commissioned by Opera Columbus and composed by Leslie Burrs, is performed in Columbus, Ohio, on October 15, 1999. Honored as the namesake of the John A. Williams Lecture otherlevel at Rutgers University.

2001: Awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the State University of New York at Old Westbury.

2003: John A. Williams Archive Exhibit held at the University of Rochester. Awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Rochester.

2015: John A. Williams dies Friday, July 3, 2015 in Paramus, N.J. at age 89 years. http://www.library.rochester.edu/news/remembering-john-a-williams.

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* Portion adapted from Gilbert Muller's John A. Williams Chronology.

About the Archive: by Richard Peek
Resources: The John A Williams Papers and a Chronology