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John A. Williams Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: circa 1970

Biographical History

John Alfred Williams, African-American author, journalist and academic, was born December 5, 1925, in Jackson, Mississippi. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserves as a pharmacist's mate in the Pacific from 1943-1946, and earned degrees in English and journalism from Syracuse University. In 1960 he published his first novel, The Angry Ones; this and subsequent novels including the best-selling The Man Who Cried I Am, explore the experiences of being a black man in America.

Over his career Williams worked as a journalist for CBS, Ebony, Jet, and Newsweek, among others. He taught at many colleges and universities, including the College of the Virgin Islands, City University of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, University of California at Santa Barbara, La Guardia Community College, the University of Hawaii, Boston University, and Rutgers University, where in 1990 he was named the Paul Robeson Professor of English. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

In 1970 Williams received the Syracuse University Centennial Medal for Outstanding Achievement, and in 1998 his Safari West won the American Book Award. He retired from Rutgers in 1994.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John A. Williams Papers consist of correspondence, clippings, memorabilia, writings, and published material.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Writings are arranged alphabetically by title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Books by Williams have been transferred to Rare Books for separate cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Williams, John Alfred, 1925-


African American novelists.
African American poets.
African Americans -- Biography.
American literature -- 20th century.
American literature -- African American authors.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Authors, American.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Drafts (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John A. Williams Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of John A. Williams.

Table of Contents





Published material