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African American Faculty and Staff Association

Dr. Carolyn L. Williams Day

dr. williams in front of a bookshelf

The African American Faculty and Staff Association of the University of North Florida wishes to honor the legacy of this great pioneer, remember the ideas for which she embraced, and commit to ensuring that our University and Jacksonville communities support African American heritage, art, literature, and poetry.


Dr. Carolyn Williams, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of History at the University of North Florida Passed away on November 29, 2011. She is survived by beloved cousins Allen and Angela Alexander, other loving relatives, and many friends and colleagues. Carolyn made significant contributions to the community while enhancing graduate and undergraduate education at UNF. Williams carved out a community niche like few others by specializing in Jacksonville’s African American history and local history.  One project in particular was close to her heart — the Durkeeville Historical Society. A modest building on West 19th Street in Jacksonville has captured the history of the neighborhood in which Williams grew up. Lloyd Washington, who succeeded Williams as president of the Durkeeville Historical Society, says the UNF historian is a blessing to the society and the greater Jacksonville community. “She helped plan and design our building and made sure all the information we presented was accurate,” he said. “She loves history and when you sit down and talk with her, it’s like taking a trip back in time to the way Jacksonville was years ago.”

Williams describes her childhood in Jacksonville as “pretty much growing up in an all-black world.” It wasn’t until she enrolled at Bishop Kenny High School that she had any extensive contact with white people. When she left Jacksonville for California, her world drastically changed. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Immaculate Heart College in 1970 and returned to Jacksonville to earn a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975 from UNF. Williams left Jacksonville again to get her master’s degree at the University of California at San Diego and a doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles. She returned to Jacksonville primarily to help care for her aging parents and obtained a part-time job teaching at UNF.  When a tenure-track position became available in the History Department, she caught the eye of Dr. David Courtwright, then the department chair. “My colleagues and I knew she would work well with our students. The fact that she was a Jacksonville native was a plus,” Courtwright said. “What none of us knew at the time was that Carolyn would develop such an interest in local history. That she acquired local and regional expertise was a real bonus for our department, our students and our community.” 

Dale Clifford, previous chair of the History department, praises Williams for her role in developing public history in the community. “She has been incredibly effective developing internships with community organizations and helping them to preserve their histories for future generations.”  While she was active in state and local history groups, Williams also has helped other organizations such as the UNF Alumni Association and the Women’s Center.  In all of these projects, her love of local history is apparent. It’s a love sure to leave a lasting legacy for Jacksonville.

Read more about Dr. Carolyn Williams.