William Loren Katz, Historian of African-Americans, Dies at 92Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians
The fountainhead of the historian Bill Katz’s immersion in African-American culture was his father’s passion for jazz. Ben Katz had derived more pleasure from the music and its historical roots than from his day job as an art director for an advertising agency.
Bill also inherited his father’s lust for learning and political consciousness. Before he was 10 he marched in a May Day rally to support the Scottsboro Boys, nine young African-Americans falsely charged with rape in the early 1930s.
His empathy for black Americans only grew. As a high school teacher and in some 40 books written under the name William Loren Katz, he awakened his readers to the integral roles that African-Americans — from rebellious slaves to cowboys who tamed the West — had played in their nation’s history. He popularized their contributions in nonfiction narratives for young adults, helping to refashion social studies curriculums across the country.
Mr. Katz died on Oct. 25 at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 92. His wife, Laurie R. Lehman, an associate professor of special education at Long Island University, said the cause was complications of heart disease.
Rather than isolating racial or ethnic studies in separate classes or departments, Mr. Katz favored incorporating the contributions of overlooked women and members of minority groups into regular American history courses.
“The assertion that the Negro has no history worth mentioning is basic to the theory that he has no humanity worth defending,” hetold The New York Times in 1968.
Read William Loren Katz's last article for HNN by clicking here.
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