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Juan Williams

Television personality and news journalist Juan Williams was born to Rogelio and Alma Geraldine Williams on April 10, 1954 in Colon, Panama. At the age of four, Williams and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. In 1969, Williams won a scholarship to attend the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York, a Quaker school. Williams then attended Haverford College, where he graduated with a B.A. degree in philosophy in 1976.

After interning at the Washington Post, Williams was hired by the newspaper in 1979. He worked as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist and White House reporter in 23 years at the Washington, D.C. newspaper. Williams published his first book, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965) in 1987, the best-selling companion to the award winning documentary of the same name. Williams was then hired by Fox News Channel in 1997 as a contributor. A year later, his second book, Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, about the pioneering Supreme Court justice, was published. It was designated a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. After serving as co-host of the television news program America’s Black Forum, Williams was hired as host of the National Public Radio call-in program Talk of the Nation in 2000. He wrote his third book, This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience, a companion to the critically acclaimed Public Broadcasting System documentary. Williams then wrote My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience and Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It; the former was co-written with Pulitzer-prize winning author David Halberstam and published in 2005, and the latter was published two years later. Williams has authored six books in total.

He is also the recipient of several awards for his writing and investigative journalism, he won an Emmy Award for television documentary writing and received widespread critical acclaim for numerous projects, including a series of documentaries like Politics: The New Black Power and A. Phillip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom. Williams has also written numerous articles for national magazines including TIME, Fortune, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Ebony and GQ.

Juan Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 6, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.061

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/15/2012

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Schools

Haverford College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Juan

Birth City, State, Country

Colón

HM ID

WIL58

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Favorite Quote

Check It Out.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/10/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

Panama

Favorite Food

Wife's Cooking

Short Description

Newspaper columnist, radio personality, and television commentator Juan Williams (1954 - ) is one of the most prominent African-American journalists on television, having appeared on Fox News Channel and award-winning Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentaries.

Employment

Washington Post

National Public Radio

Fox News

Favorite Color

Blue, Orange, Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Juan Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Juan Williams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about his father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Juan Williams discusses his father's occupations in Panama and New York

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Juan Williams shares the story of how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Juan Williams talks about his likeness to his parents, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about his likeness to his parents, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Juan Williams talks about his mother's move to Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Juan Williams describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Juan Williams describes the sights, sounds, and smell of growing up, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Juan Williams describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about the apartments where he lived in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about his elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about his favorite subject in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Juan Williams talks about his favorite teachers in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Juan Williams talks about playing sports in Brooklyn, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Juan Williams talks about playing sports in Brooklyn, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about his childhood interests

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Juan Williams talks about earning a scholarship to attend Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Juan Williams talks about the racial makeup and his extracurricular activities at Oakwood Friends School

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Juan Williams remembers the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Juan Williams talks about his father's move to New York and how it affected him

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Juan Williams talks about Malcolm X's impact on his family, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Juan Williams talks about Malcolm X's impact on his family, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about his family's discussions about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about going to black bookstores and movies in downtown Brooklyn

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about his grades in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about his brother's and sister's roles in his early development

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Juan Williams discusses his mentors and role models at Haverford College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Juan Williams talks about his early writing

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Juan Williams talks about how he started writing

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about his African American influences from the news media

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Juan Williams talks about the racial makeup of Haverford College

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Juan Williams discusses his studies at Haverford College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Juan Williams talks about his influences at Haverford College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Juan Williams discusses how he majored in philosophy at Haverford College and the usefulness of critical analysis

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about his philosophy professor at Haverford College

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about his internships and jobs during and after Haverford College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about the black reporters at the Washington Post

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about being hired at the Washington Post after working as an intern

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Juan Williams talks about the stories that he worked on and his career at the Washington Post

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Juan Williams talks about covering Marion Barry at the Washington Post

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Juan Williams discusses Marion Barry's strengths and weaknesses as mayor of Washington, D.C., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Juan Williams discusses Marion Barry's strengths and weaknesses as mayor of Washington, D.C., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Juan Williams discusses some of the scandals surrounding Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Juan Williams discusses political philosophy in relation to Mayor Marion Barry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Juan Williams discusses public sector jobs and public services during Mayor Marion Barry's administration

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Juan Williams discusses his coverage of public schools in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Juan Williams discusses his first impressions of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Juan Williams shares his opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Juan Williams shares his opinions of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Juan Williams discusses U.S. Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Juan Williams discusses U.S. Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Juan Williams discusses the appointment of African Americans to the U.S. Supreme Court

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Juan Williams talks about what led to his work on PBS's "Eyes on the Prize"

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about meeting documentary producer, Henry Hampton

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Juan Williams discusses writing the book 'Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years: 1954-1965'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Juan Williams discusses what he remembers most about writing 'Eyes on the Prize'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about being investigated for his writings on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about being investigated for his writings on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about interviewing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about interviewing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Juan Williams talks about writing his biography on Thurgood Marshall, entitled, 'Thurgood Marshall: An American Revolutionary'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Juan Williams talks about 'America's Black Forum', pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Juan Williams talks about 'America's Black Forum', pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about how his book, 'Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary' was received

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Juan Williams talks about his book on Thurgood Marshall and the media attention it received

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Juan Williams talks about the conflict between Carl Rowan and Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about working at CNN and at Fox News

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about his interview with Bill O'Reilly that led to his departure from NPR

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Juan Williams talks about the reaction to his Bill O'Reilly interview

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Juan Williams talks about his experiences at Fox News

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Juan Williams describes his professional philosophy as a journalist

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Juan Williams responds to criticisms of his book, Enough

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Juan Williams discusses the organizational efforts that are required to make progress on civil rights

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Juan Williams talks about his future projects

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Juan Williams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Juan Williams discusses the political culture of Fox News

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Juan Williams reflects upon his legacy and what he would do differently

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Juan Williams talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Juan Williams talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Juan Williams describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

8$3

DATitle
Juan Williams talks about covering Marion Barry at the Washington Post
Juan Williams talks about being investigated for his writings on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pt. 1
Transcript
Okay, now, when you were hired as a report--now, you covered Marion Barry, didn't you as mayor--$$Um-hum.$$--of the City of Washington [Washington, D.C.]. And what was that like?$$Oh, gosh, it was a mess. You know, I was covering--when I was young--when I had, first was working on the City Staff, I was covering the School Board, and then went from the School Board to covering some of City Hall, the district building is what we call it here in the District of Columbia. And Barry was a character in both settings for me. And Barry's history with the paper, remember "The Washington Post" is the big white newspaper in town, had always been problematic. They had fallen in love with his image as kind of the Dashiki-clad, civil rights activist, and the reality on the ground is that Barry was oftentimes involved in all kinds of political shenanigans and questionable activities from way back in his days with "PRIDE" and all that. But he had the kind of dashing, charismatic energy, absent from the people who were the pioneers of what we call in the District of Columbia, "Home Rule," and these were older, more bureaucratic, administrative-type black men. I'm thinking here of Walter Washington. I'm thinking here of Sterling Tucker. These are suit and tie type guys, but they were at the cutting edge of making deals that led to Home Rule for the District of Columbia, that allowed control of budgetary authority for the District of Columbia to come to local hands, established the whole notion of the right to vote and proper representation for the people of the District of Columbia as opposed to having Congress control it. Barry comes from a different tradition, if you will. Whereas you had Walter Washington, Sterling Tucker, Walter Fauntroy, as kind of establishment, political and church leadership in the black community, Barry comes in as someone who'd been in SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], someone who then comes to town with the Civil Rights Movement, comes from Mississippi, comes to D.C., and gets involved with these job training organizations that are taking advantage of federal grants. And he is much more kind of the voice of young, impatient and challenging to whites, black America. And, you know, the paper fell in love with Barry, especially, the editorial board and all that. And so when I start writing about Barry, writing editorials about Barry and the like and being critical of him, the newspaper is like whoa, you know, why are you writing critically about Marion Barry? But Barry was always up to tricks, and I was always critical of some of Barry's activities and willing to write in that way. And then Barry, of course, has his own issues, once he gets into elected office on the City Council and as the Mayor. And writing about him, and writing about his deals and his missteps, and the like, I think it was very difficult for lots of people to see those stories in "The Washington Post," and I remember being castigated and criticized, you know, why are you writing, why are you writing critically about a black leader in a white newspaper and those kind of things.$In 1992, you left "The Washington Post"?$$Yes.$$Okay, so what happened?$$I didn't leave "The Washington Post" in '92 [1992], but--$$Okay, well--$$I think in '92 [1992] is when I start working on the Thurgood Marshall book which comes out in '98 [1998]. But in the course of the Clarence Thomas hearings--remember Thomas was charged with--Anita Hill said, oh, he's, he's sexual harassment and all that stuff had emerged. And in the course of those hearings, then at the paper, people said, well, Juan Williams tells dirty jokes, and Juan Williams flirts with women. And all of a sudden they would say oh, well, should we be investigating Juan Williams, you know? And, you know, they--I remember the editors at the "Post" [the Washington Post], I think fearing for lawsuits against the "Post" said, well, you should be going on TV. You shouldn't be talking about this. And I had been writing about Clarence Thomas for, as we've discussed for some time. But it was so painful to me that this institution which I regarded as my home, would suddenly turn on me. In other words, they hadn't turned on me, although they had been very skeptical about my critical writings about Marion Barry. And that was highly politically charged in this black majority town. They hadn't turned on me in that situation, but in this situation where I was involved in a controversy about Clarence Thomas because I said I thought what was going on there was really unfair to him, the human being, the woman in the newsroom clearly said, "You're either with us or against us on this issue," and anybody who's writing anything favorable about Clarence Thomas is out of bounds. And so I became part of the story. And it was again, to me, just the wildest thing, I mean just--you know, they came. They had me sit through interviews with people. Did you say this? Did you do this? And it ultimately came down to write an apology and let's get over with this thing. But it was very painful to me, and I don't think, I don't think my relationship with the Post was ever the same after that. It was searing for me, and it was very public. It was all over. So-