The official site of William Loren Katz and Black Indians

Remembering William Loren Katz

June 2, 1927 to October 25, 2019

 

William Loren Katz had a rich, prolific life, dedicating himself to exposing important, yet hidden, parts of American history. He wrote forty books revealing the authentic stories of African Americans, Native Americans and other disempowered groups. I, as his wife, marveled at his passion, perseverance and productivity, learning so much about truth telling and social justice.

His life was celebrated at a small memorial service on January 11, 2020 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Below are remembrances of Bill from colleagues, family and friends.

“I thought William Loren Katz was a black man, like all of those other black historians with Jewish names – Aptheker, Litwack, Levine, and all the Foners. When I finally met Bill in person, I still regarded him as a black historian, my brother from another mother – or better yet, my uncle.” (Robin D. G. Kelley, colleague, Memorial, 1/11/20)

“Katz’s work was crucial for so many to discover that freedom was not given over by the powerful, but rather was fought for. His insistence on the agency of the oppressed, their great and subtle forms of resistance, has influenced the generations since his work came out.” (Jesse Shipley, friend and colleague, Memorial, 1/11/2020)

“For many years I called Bill Peter Pan. To me, he was timeless, the friend who filled our long Pennsylvania summers with joy and magic, who like Peter Pan embraced each day with infectious enthusiasm and who reinforced the simple truth that the most ordinary things can become extraordinary.” (Chris Lewis, friend, Memorial, 1/11/20)

“They say we honor our loved ones the most by living as they themselves wished to live. May we honor my father’s memory by continuing the struggle. . . for what he believed in so profoundly; for justice, for equality, for freedom from oppression, for human dignity.” (Naomi Katz, daughter, Memorial, 1/11/2020)

“He was a true mentor for me (as is Grandma Laurie). As my questions and decisions grew more difficult, Grandpa would provide wisdom, thoughtfulness, and this ability to dig deeper with me. He offered me perspective that would help me to uncover my own truths. He had a way of seeing things in a person that he loved and empowering him or her to achieve what he knew they could.” (Maya Katz-Ali, granddaughter, Memorial, 1/11/2020)

“He was always kind and caring and took good care of me during times of great sadness in my life. He introduced me to my late husband, Thorne Shipley, who was a high school friend of his and again, he and Laurie were a great support after Thorne’s death.” (Virginia Shipley, friend, Memorial, 1/11/2020)

“Of all the volumes Bill delivered my favorite was Eyewitness—A Living Documentary of the African American Contribution to American History. The book comprehensively documented and illuminated the Black experience in America, from the 16th to the 21st century. Bill’s skillful delineation of the events and personalities takes on an almost cinematic quality.” (Herb Boyd, colleague, Amsterdam News, 11/3/2019)

“Bill never separated his work as a historian from teaching and activism. He was especially proud of his anti-Apartheid activism in the 1980s, his work with WBAI-FM radio, and his support for Black Lives Matter.” (Alan Singer, colleague and friend, History News Network, 11/19/2019)