by Carl Van Vechten
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van
John Alfred Williams
John Alfred Williams was
born December 5, 1925, in Jackson, Mississippi. He served in the
U.S. Naval Reserves as a pharmacists mate in the Pacific from
1943-46, and earned a B.A. from Syracuse University in 1950. Throughout
his diverse career, he has worked as a journalist for a number of
publications and media organizations, including CBS, Ebony, Jet,
and Newsweek, and he has taught at a number of colleges and
universities, including the City University of New York, 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.
James L. de Jongh, a contributor to the
Dictionary of Literary Biography, has said Williams is arguably
the finest Afro-American novelist of his generation, although
he "has been denied the full degree of support and acceptance some
critics think his work deserves. Williams believes part of
the reason for this may be racial discrimination. In 1961, for instance,
he was awarded a grant to the American Academy in Rome based on
the quality of his novel Night Song, but the grant was rescinded
by the awarding panel, possibly because he was black and because
of rumors that he was about to marry a white woman, which he later
Many of Williams books explore what
it means to be a black in America. His first three novels
The Angry Ones, Night Song, and Sissie relate
attempts by black men and women to come to terms with a nation that
discriminates against them. In The Man Who Cried I Am, a
novel that brought Williams international recognition, Williams
further explores the exploitation of blacks by a white society in
a plot in which the protagonist, Max Reddick, uncovers a plot by
western nations to prevent the unification of black Africa and an
even more sinister plot code-named King Alfred, a genocidal
plan to end the race problem similar to Hitlers Final
Related Links & Info
John A. Williams,
from the African American Literature Book
Fiction (Novels) and Poetry:
- The Angry Ones. Ace Books (New York City), 1960,
published as One for New York, Chatham Bookseller (Madison,
- Night Song. Farrar, Straus (New York City), 1961.
- Sissie. Farrar, Straus, 1963, published in England
as Journey out of Anger, Eyre &Spottiswoode (London),
- The Man Who Cried I Am. Little, Brown (Boston),
- Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light: A Novel of Some Probability.
Little, Brown, 1969.
- Captain Blackman. Doubleday (New York City), 1972.
- Mothersill and the Foxes. Doubleday, 1975.
- The Junior Bachelor Society. Doubleday, 1976.
- !Click Song. Houghton (Boston), 1982.
- The Berhama Account. New Horizons Press (Chico,
- Jacob's Ladder. Thunder's Mouth (New York City),
- Safari West: Poems. Hochelaga (Montreal, Canada),
- Clifford's Blues. Coffee House, 1999.
- Africa: Her History, Lands, and People. Cooper Square
(Totowa, NJ), 1962, 3rd edition, 1969.
- (Under pseudonym J. Dennis Gregory, with Harry J. Anslinger) The
Protectors: The Heroic Story of the Narcotics Agents, Citizens and
Officials in Their Unending, Unsung Battles against Organized Crime
in America and Abroad. Farrar, Straus, 1964.
- This Is My Country Too. New American Library (New
York City), 1965.
- The Most Native of Sons: A Biography of Richard
Wright. Doubleday, 1970.
- The King God Didn't Save: Reflections on the Life and Death
of Martin Luther King, Jr. Coward (New York City), 1970.
- Flashbacks: A Twenty-Year Diary of Article Writing.
- (Author of introduction) Romare Bearden. Abrams
(New York City), 1973.
- Minorities in the City. Harper (New York City),
- (With son, Dennis A. Williams) If I Stop I'll Die: The Comedy
and Tragedy of Richard Pryor. Thunder's Mouth, 1991.
- The Angry Black (anthology). Lancer Books,
1962, 2nd edition published as Beyond the Angry Black, Cooper
- (With Charles F. Harris) Amistad I. Knopf (New York
- (With Harris) Amistad II. Knopf, 1971.
- Yardbird No. 1. Ishmael Reed (Berkeley, CA), 1979.
- The McGraw-Hill Introduction to Literature. McGraw
(New York City), 1985, 2nd edition, 1994.
- Bridges: Literature across Cultures. McGraw, 1994.
- Approaches to Literature. McGraw, 1994.
- The History of the Negro People: Omowale The Child
Returns Home (television script; filmed in Nigeria). National
Education Television, 1965.
- The Creative Person: Henry Roth (television script;
filmed in Spain). National Education Television, 1966.
- Sweet Love, Bitter (screenplay). Film 2 Associates,
- Last Flight from Ambo Ber (play; first produced
in Boston, 1981). American Association of Ethiopian Jews, 1984.
- The Junior Bachelor Society was adapted for television
by National Broadcasting Corp. (NBC) as Sophisticated Gents
- Cash, Earl A. Evolution of a Black Writer. Third Press,
- Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 3, Gale
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 5, 1976,
Volume 13, 1980.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale, Volume 2: American
Novelists since World War II, 1978, Volume 33: Afro-American
Fiction Writers after 1955, 1984.
- Gayle, Addison, Jr., ed. Black Expression: Essays by and about
Black Americans in the Creative Arts. Weybright and Talley,
1969, pp. 365-72.
- Muller, Gilbert H. John A. Williams. New York: Twayne,
- OBrien, John, ed. Interviews with Black Writers.
New York: Liveright, 1973. 225-43.
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