It is with sadness that the College shares 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 on 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 more than 36 years as a faculty member at New Paltz, Williams-Myers received a Heritage Award at the College’s 2017 Alumni Reunion celebration.
“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,” said President Donald P. Christian. “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.”
In 2017, Williams-Myers was honored 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, a historian for the African Burial Ground Interpretive Center in New York City, and a parishioner at Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, New York.
We will share details about services as soon as they are available.
If you are a student who needs assistance in processing this sad loss, the Counseling Center is available at (845) 257-2920. Employees are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program at (845) 257-2886.