Williams, Juan 1954-

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Williams, Juan 1954-


Born April 10, 1954, in Colon, Panama; son of Rogelio L. (an accountant) and Alma Geraldine (a secretary) Williams; married Susan Delise (a social worker), July 1, 1978; children: Antonio Mason, Regan Almina. Education: Haverford College, B.A., 1976.


Home—Washington, DC. Office—National Public Radio, 635 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001. Agent—Raphael Sagalyn, Inc., 7201 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 675, Bethesda, MD 20814.


Washington Post, Washington, DC, columnist and reporter, 1976-99; senior correspondent on National Public Radio, panelist on television program Fox News Sunday, and cohost of America's Black Forum, 1996—. Contributor of commentaries to radio and television programs, including National Public Radio broadcasts, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and Nightline. Onetime panelist on Capital Gang Sunday and former cohost of Crossfire.


Washington Journalism Center; Aspen Institute of Communications and Society Program; New York Civil Rights Coalition; Haverford College (board of trustees).


Front Page Award from Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and award from Education Writers of America, both 1979, both for series on public schools in Washington, DC; named columnist of the year by Washingtonian, 1982; DuSable Museum Award, 1985, for political writing; Washington, DC, Emmy Award for documentary writing, 1989, for From Riot to Recovery; Bill Pryor Award for investigative reporting; Outstanding Book Award from Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the United States; Best National Book Award from Time magazine; American Association of University Women, award for political commentary; honorary doctorates from Haverford College and State University of New York.


Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, introduction by Julian Bond, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.

Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, Times Books (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Quinton Dixie) This Far by Faith: Stories from the African-American Religious Experience, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, foreword by David Halberstam, afterword by Marian Wright Edelman, AARP/Sterling (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Dwayne Ashley and Shawn Rhea) I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges, Amistad/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-end Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do about It, Crown (New York, NY), 2006.

(Author of essays) Black Farmers in America, photographs by John Francis Ficara, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2006.

Also author of television documentaries, including This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys, which he coauthored with Quinton Dixie; Politics: The New Black Power; Marian Anderson; A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom; and No One Dies Alone. Contributor to newspapers, including New York Times, and periodicals, including Atlantic, Ebony, Fortune, and New Republic.


Juan Williams has worked in news media for several decades. Williams served as a columnist and reporter for the Washington Post from 1976 to 1999 and later moved full time to National Public Radio, hosting the popular Morning Edition talk show. Williams has also worked in television, sitting in on panels, cohosting, or guest hosting shows on Public Broadcasting Service and Cable News Network.

Each chapter of Juan Williams's book Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 deals with a specific event or series of events from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The book—produced in conjunction with a six-part public television series of the same title—provides a tribute to the thousands of ordinary people who participated in a movement that was physically strenuous, socially daring, and at times life-threatening. The author has concentrated on the memorable events, such as sit-ins, voting rights campaigns, and bus boycotts, but he does not neglect the lesser-known individuals who have faded from public memory. The book is dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives in the struggle. Roy Reed wrote in the Washington Post Book World: "The book is rich in detail on how the movement started, gained momentum and finally engulfed the political system and changed it." Nation contributor Fred Powledge pronounced the book "not just a coffee-table adjunct to the TV series … [but] a worthy addition to the library of the concerned reader-viewer."

Williams once stated: "I became interested in civil rights because of my work as a White House correspondent for the Washington Post during a period of strife between President Ronald Reagan's administration and civil rights groups. I gathered material for the book from extensive interviews, some taped and used in the public television series. Born in 1954, I was too young to participate in the civil rights movement but am inspired by it nonetheless. At the same time, I believe I'm sufficiently dispassionate about the events to see them as historically valuable evidence of democracy at work in modern America. That perspective makes me part of a new generation of black writers who feel less compelled to be advocates and, instead, simply recount the truth of the black American triumph."

In Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, Williams chronicles the major role played in African American progress by Marshall, the prominent civil rights lawyer who in 1967 became the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. As the lead attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1938 to 1961, Marshall was involved in many court battles against racial discrimination. The most famous case was Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the Supreme Court's ruling in 1954 that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal, and it is the "literal and figurative center" of Williams's book, noted Gene Seymour in the Nation. Williams also recounts Marshall's work in many lesser-known civil rights cases and his term on the Supreme Court, where he served until 1991 and had a consistent record of favoring individual liberties. Williams deals with the less admirable aspects of Marshall's life and character as well: his decision to discuss alleged Communist activities in the civil rights movement with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; his animosity toward many black leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr.; his increasing irascibility toward the end of his years on the court; and reports that he was a heavy drinker, an unfaithful husband, and a sexual harasser.

"Juan Williams's biography will provide grist to both celebrants and detractors" of Marshall, observed Randall Kennedy in the New Republic. Kennedy remarked that, "for the most part, Williams strikes a praising tone," crediting Marshall with ending governmentally sanctioned segregation and putting him in the company of King and Malcolm X as one of the twentieth century's three most important African American freedom fighters. However, the critic faulted Williams as too credulous regarding stories of Marshall's sexual misconduct: "All that exists, so far, are rumors…. A rumor marks the beginning of a biographer's work, not the end." Kennedy found Williams's detailing of Marshall's career as a lawyer "excellent," but deemed the account of his Supreme Court years wanting. "He and his law clerks produced scores of important opinions," Kennedy related. "Williams pays relatively little attention to that work. In a book that is about 400 pages long, only about seventy pages are devoted to Marshall's career as a Justice, and those pages are painfully thin."

Similarly, National Review commentator John O. McGinnis called the biography "at its weakest in its discussion of Marshall's years on the Court. Williams does not have a command of constitutional jurisprudence and frequently turns complex legal issues into political cartoons." Seymour asserted that "one needn't be a legal scholar to suspect that the book leaves plenty of room for deeper inquiry into Marshall's arguments, decisions and dissents." He also thought the report of Marshall's dealings with Hoover "disquieting" and longed for more information about what Marshall told Hoover and "who—or what—was hurt by his disclosures." But Ruth Conniff, writing in the Progressive, praised Williams as taking "a thoughtful, unflinching look at Marshall's ‘intense, unpublicized dance’" with Hoover. She noted that Williams faced some difficulties in researching his book; for one thing, his public support for Clarence Thomas, the black conservative tapped to succeed Marshall on the Supreme Court, led the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to deny him use of the organization's records. "In spite of such obstacles," she contended, "he has written a terrifically engaging biography." David J. Garrow, reviewing for the Washington Monthly, wrote that the volume's "shortcomings detract surprisingly little from what overall is an excellent and important book." He further stated, "Williams's book leaves a definitive account of Marshall's Supreme Court service for some subsequent author, but his portrait of Marshall the man is rich and valuable, even if he fails to plumb fully some of the most fascinating complexities of Marshall's life."

In This Far by Faith: Stories from the African-American Religious Experience, Williams and coauthor Quinton Dixie provide narratives that testify to the significance of the religious movement in the African American community, from slavery up to the civil rights movement, when "God's power to transform society [had] no greater example," the authors maintain unapologetically. According to a reviewer in the Christian Science Monitor, Williams and Dixie are "masters at placing black worship in the context of U.S. history" and "cover vast information without burying the reader in excessive detail." Vicki Hyman of the News & Observer, wrote that Williams told her some people were disappointed in the book because they hoped for less history and more inspirational stories. But, Hyman observes, "if the readers didn't glean an ounce of spiritual guidance from these tales, then they weren't paying attention."

In My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, Williams looks back more than fifty years to the present day to tell the stories of men and women who were on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Carolyn McKinstry remembers witnessing the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church by the Ku Klux Klan in 1963. Dr. Alvin Poussant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, recalls the brutally suppressed march with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Canton, Mississippi, when Stokely Carmichael raised his fist and cried out, "Black Power! Black Power!" Feminist Diane Brownmiller discusses sit-in tactics she learned during Mississippi's Freedom Summer in 1964. In a review of the book for the Washington Post, Alicia Young stated that while few of the narrators have a sense of actually changing the world around them, "they force us to weigh whether outward indicators of success even matter, since they never really thought to live their lives in any other way." A reviewer for the U.S. Newswire said, "This book will radically transform the way you think about freedom and how it was won."

Written with with Dwayne Ashley and Shawn Rhea, I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges outlines how black and white abolitionists, as well as former slaves, opened institutes of higher learning for blacks after the Civil War. The book is mostly comprised of historical narratives and personal written accounts that outline the process and hardships faced in creating these colleges and universities. A reviewer writing in Publishers Weekly said the book offers "a peek at the future of America through the gift of [historically black colleges and universities] and their graduates." Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, commended the authors for their "excellent research."

In 2006, Williams published Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-end Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do about It. The book includes a number of speeches and interviews by Bill Cosby, who along with Williams sees a segment of the African American community as making a repeated pattern of socially and financially irresponsible decisions that perpetuate stereotypes and keep the community living at a lower standard than the national average. As Cosby's statements were controversial, Williams' book brought forth heated opinions in book reviews. Raymond L. Fischer, writing in a USA Today review, commented that "Williams has written a strong, revealing, and well-documented book." Fischer noted, however, that his "solution seems too simplistic." Writing in Black Issues Book Review, C. Gerald Fraser agreed in part, saying that "Williams never seriously tackles the last part of subtitle, ‘What We Can Do about It.’ Nor does he identify ‘We’ or ‘It.’" A contributor to Publishers Weekly concluded that "politically interested readers of a mildly conservative bent will find this book sheer dynamite."

Published in the same year, Black Farmers in America is a book of photographs taken by John Francis Ficara with Williams's essays and commentary on the history of African Americans in agriculture. Reviews were mostly positive for the collection. A contributor to California Bookwatch described the book as "a ‘must’" for college libraries. Vernon Ford, writing in Booklist, remarked: "The photographs reflect a strength, pride, beauty, and endurance of a dying breed of African Americans."



Williams, Juan, and Quinton Dixie, This Far by Faith: Stories from the African-American Religious Experience, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.


America, April 10, 1999, review of Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, p. 36.

Black Issues Book Review, September 1, 2006, C. Gerald Fraser, review of Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-end Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do about It, p. 40.

Booklist, October 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, p. 370; March 15, 2006, Vernon Ford, review of Black Farmers in America, p. 14.

California Bookwatch, June 1, 2006, review of Black Farmers in America.

Christian Science Monitor, November 25, 2003, review of This Far by Faith: Stories from the African-American Religious Experience.

Ebony, November 1, 2004, review of I'll Find a Way or Make One, p. 28.

Economist, October 17, 1998, review of Thurgood Marshall.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of Enough, p. 629.

Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Ann Burns, review of Enough, p. 110.

Nation, January 31, 1987, review of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, p. 120; January 25, 1999, review of Thurgood Marshall, p. 36.

National Review, December 7, 1998, John O. McGinnis, "Tragic Justice," p. 62.

New Republic, April 5, 1999, Randall Kennedy, "Mr. Civil Rights," p. 38.

News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), April 19, 2004, review of This Far by Faith, p. C1.

New York Times Book Review, January 25, 1987, review of Eyes on the Prize, p. 20.

Progressive, December, 1998, Ruth Conniff, review of Thurgood Marshall, p. 40.

Publishers Weekly, October 11, 2004, review of I'll Find a Way or Make One, p. 66; June 19, 2006, review of Enough, p. 56.

Reading Eagle, February 5, 2006, "Photographs Show Lives of Black Farmers in America."

Roanoke Times (VA), February 13, 2007, "Photographer's Images Capture a Fading Way of Life: The Book Documents What May Be the Last Generation of Black Farmers in America."

Time, October 5, 1998, Jack E. White, "Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary," p. 88.

USA Today, May 1, 2007, Raymond L. Fischer, review of Enough, p. 81.

U.S. Newswire, April 20, 2004, review of My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience; April 21, 2004, "Juan Williams Book on Civil Rights Experience Published by AARP & Sterling Publishing."

Washington Monthly, November, 1998, David J Garrow, review of Symbolic Justice, p. 42.

Washington Post Book World, January 11, 1987, review of Eyes on the Prize, p. 4; February 14, 1988, review of Eyes on the Prize, p. 12; July 13, 2004, review of My Soul Looks Back in Wonder.


National Public Radio Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (July 29, 2007), author profile.

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