Lillian S. Williams


Lillian Williams.

Lillian S. Williams


Lillian S. Williams


Fields of Interest

Institutions; Ethnicity; Biography; Women’s history


  • PhD, University at Buffalo, 1979
  • MA, University at Buffalo, 1973
  • BA, University at Buffalo, 1966


Lillian S. Williams, PhD, is Associate Professor and former chair of the Department of African American Studies. Prof. Williams received the doctorate degree from the University at Buffalo. A specialist in United States social and urban history, Prof. Williams’ research is in the areas of institutions, ethnicity, biography and women’s history. Her research includes the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Associations and the National Urban League; Jewish club women; and Mary Burnett Talbert, an early twentieth century reformer.

Prof. Williams has consulted on several historical projects that include national, state and local museums, major corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. Among them are the American Security Bank of Washington, D.C., the second largest financial institution in the capital (now Nations Bank); the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Association of Buffalo and Erie County. She was an expert witness in a federal lawsuit that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People litigated. She served as historian consultant on the New York State Museum’s permanent exhibition “Black Capital: Harlem in the 1920s.” Williams’ consulting on the diversity project for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. resulted in the publication of a monograph A Bridge to the Future: The History of Diversity in Girl Scouting. Much of the work she did for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and other cultural and educational institutions also addressed issues of diversity. This work often resulted in either exhibitions, conferences, or curriculum changes. She is an associate editor of the “Encyclopedia of New York State.”

Government agencies also have sought her advice regarding urban planning and public policy issues. Prof. Williams was a member of the Mayor’s technical advisory committee for the Twenty Year Comprehensive Plan for Washington, D.C., and she chaired its sub-committee on housing. She also was a member of the New York State Historic Records Advisory Board.

Prof. Williams is the recipient of many academic and research awards and honors, including a Rockefeller Foundation Minority Scholars Fellowship, the Nuala McCann Dresher Award, the SUNY Chancellor’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and the University at Albany “Bread and Roses” Award for Distinguished University Service. Williams edited the microfilm edition of the papers of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the oldest secular, African American organization in existence today; she is associate editor of the sixteen volume series Black Women in American History. The author of dozens of articles, Prof. Williams also published Strangers in the Land of Paradise from Indiana University Press in 1999; it was reissued in paperback in 2000. Professor Williams was selected as a fellow for the National African American Women’s Leadership Institute Class of 2001. The Niagara County Black Achievers selected Prof. Williams for its “Lifetime Achievement” Award for the year 2000.

Selected Publications


  • Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African American Community, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940. Indiana University Press, 1999; paperback edition, 2000.

Edited Works

  • Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1958-1968, Part II. Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America. 1994. Black Studies Research Sources. In cooperation with the Women’s Studies Research Sources.
  • Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, 1895-1992, Part I. Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America. 1993. Black Studies Research Sources. In cooperation with the Women’s Studies Research Sources.

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “‘What’s Gender Got to Do With It?’: New York in the Age of Civil War.” In Harold Holzer, ed. State of the Union . Fordham University Press, 2002.
  • “‘Making A Way Out of No Way’: Black Women’s Clubs and Philanthropy, 1900-1940.” In Adrienne Lash Jones and Kenneth Rose, eds. Philanthropy in the African American Experience. Indiana University Press, in press.
  • “And Still I Rise: Black Women and Reform, Buffalo, New York, 1900-1940,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, 14(1990), pp. 7-34.

Courses Taught

Graduate Courses

  • African Americans in the City
  • African American History
  • Black Women in U.S. History
  • Research Seminar

Undergraduate Courses

  • African American History
  • African Americans and Buffalo
  • Perspectives on Women
  • Classism, Racism, Sexism
  • History of Women and Social Change
  • Black Women in United States History
  • Research Seminar


  • Roses Award for Outstanding Service Award for distinguished service to Buffalo and the metropolitan region, May, 2017
  • YWCA of Western New York, “Tribute to Women,” Education Award, September, 2015
  • Girl Scouts Council of Western New York, “Woman of Distinction,” September, 2014
  • Herbert Lehman Award, New York Academy of History (Columbia University), April, 2014
  • Niagara Gazette, “Women of Distinction Award,” May 2013
  • Racial Justice Award of the YWCA of Western New York, 2009
  • Elected into the initial class of 150 Fellows of the New York Academy of History, June 2007
  • Buffalo News, “Outstanding Citizen of Western New York,” April, 2006
  • “Owen B. Augsburger Local History Award,” Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 2005