KINGSTON – The following message from SUNY New Paltz President Christian was shared with the campus community Tuesday about the passing of Dr. Albert J. (“A.J.”) Williams-Myers, professor emeritus of Black Studies and a longtime community leader based in Kingston, New York.
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
It is with sadness that I share the news of the death of Dr. Albert J. (“A.J.”) Williams-Myers, professor emeritus of Black Studies and a longtime community leader based in Kingston, New York. He passed away peacefully today, July 12, 2021, after a brief illness.
Professor Williams-Myers was a former chair of the Department of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz and a widely recognized expert who authored many books on African American history, including moving and informative works on the Middle Passage trans-Atlantic slave trade.
A dedicated educator who touched hundreds of students’ lives over the course of more than 36 years as a faculty member at New Paltz, A.J. received a Heritage Award at the College’s 2017 Alumni Reunion celebration.
In 2017, A.J. was recognized for his lifetime of scholarship, teaching and community involvement when a new library focusing on African and African American history and culture was named in his honor.
The A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Community Center Library, at 43 Gill Street in Kingston, aims to promote literacy through teaching and learning about the African roots experience, and to honor and encourage the transmission of history through written and oral history, spoken word, paintings, cultural artifacts and other forms of artistic expression.
A brief biography on the Library’s website reads in part:
“Dr. Williams-Myers is most generous with his time, often serving as a keynote speaker and resource person at events in the Hudson Valley celebrating Black history, where he acts as a Fundi, one who passes on the traditions to the next generation.”
He remained engaged in the Hudson Valley after his 2016 retirement from the College. Among his many activities, he served as an elected member of the Huguenot Historical Society’s Board of Directors, was a former director of the New York African American Institute, a member of the New York State Freedom Trail Commission and a historian for the African Burial Ground Interpretive Center in New York City, and also remained a parishioner at Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, New York.
One of my most vivid memories of A.J. was his compelling commentary at a reinternment ceremony for African American remains in the Historic Huguenot Street French Church cemetery, the first burial there since the Civil War and the first ever of human remains not of European descent.
As a teacher and productive and engaged scholar, A.J. was well known for his ability to awaken students to think about history and the lives of people who lived in other times, and what that has to do with his students’ own lives and understanding of who they are. He was particularly adept at helping his students and others understand the historical roots of deeply seated racism in America. He helped his students understand the slave trade and how it and its legacy have played out in the Hudson Valley and in other parts of the northern United States.
We will share details about services as soon as they are available.
Please join me in sending our deepest condolences to the family, colleagues, friends and many others who knew and valued Dr. A.J. Williams-Myers.