1877 graduate of Richmond Colored High and Normal School with a gold medal for excellence in scholarship and conduct; 1880 graduate of the Worcester Academy, Worcester, MA (1877-1880); 1880, matriculated at Brown University; 1889, honorary M.A., Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC; 1891, honorary Ph.D., Shaw University, Raleigh, NC.
Assistant superintendent, First Baptist Church Sabbath School, 1881-1882; Teacher, Public Schools of Henrico County, VA, 1884-1885; Teacher, Moore Street Industrial School, Richmond, VA, March-June, 1885; Instructor, Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, ancient languages, higher mathematics, science and art of teaching, 1885-1887; Secretary, Joint Stock Cooperative Association; First and Second vice-president of the Richmond Normal School Alumni Association, June, 1885 to June, 1889; Secretary of Faculty, Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, 1885-n.d.; Professor, Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, ancient languages and instructor in methods of teaching and school management, June, 1887 to July, 1895; Dean of the College Department, 1891-1895; Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Virginia Teachers Association, 1889-1892 and president, 1892.
A Sketch of the Life and Times of Captain R[obert] A[ustin] Paul (Richmond: Johns and Goolsby, 1885); Science, Art and Methods of Teaching: Containing Lectures on the Science, Art, and Methods of Education (Petersburg, VA: Fenn & Owen, 1887); Freedom and Progress and Other Choice Addresses on Scientific, Educational, Philosophic, Historic and Religious Subjects (Petersburg, VA; Daniel B. Williams, 1890); Outlines of School Management Containing Lectures on School Necessaries, School Organization, Study, Recitation, Examination, Reviews, and School Government (Petersburg, VA: Daniel B. Williams, 1891); Emancipation Address: Our Duties and How to Discharge Them at Roanoke, Va., January 2, 1893 ( [Salem, VA?]: Daniel B. Williams, 1893); Science and Art of Elocution (Petersburg, VA: Daniel B. Williams, 1894).
“The Education of Children,” The Industrial Herald (27 July 1883): 3; “The Theory of Rev. John Jasper Concerning the Sun,” in Edwin Archer Randolph, The Life of Rev. John Jasper, Pastor of Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Richmond, Va., (Richmond, VA: R.T. Hill & Co., 1884): 83-94; “The Colored American and Higher Education,” African Methodist Episcopal Church Review ( 7 April 1891): 393-396; “Introduction,” to I. Garland Penn’s The Afro-American Press and Its Editors ( Springfield, MA: Willey & Co. 1891): 1-12.
Williams was the first black person to teach classics in the state of Virginia after the state hired him to serve at its first black state college in the fall of 1885. As a youth he was helped in his studies by Mary Elizabeth Knowles, an abolitionist teacher from Worcester, MA who was principal of the Richmond Colored High and Normal School from 1871-1876 and also by a former Union chaplain Ralza Morse Manly, who was the school’s principal from 1876-1878 and again from 1884-1886. The school had a classical curriculum with courses in Latin, German, French, algebra, science, history, geography, cartography, music and government.
Williams was known in his youth for his athletic abilities especially in swimming, and later for being a gifted teacher and popular public lecturer. During the decade he spent at the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University), he was a one man department, teaching generations of students all levels of Latin and Greek, and he used the works of Caesar, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Tacitus, Homer, Sophocles, Plato and Demosthenes to do so. He brought to his task knowledge not only of Greek and Latin, but also of German, French, and Hebrew. Williams was an industrious scholar with an abiding interest in elocution and pedagogy and he published his thoughts on those subjects often under his own name. He believed that black children “should read and study works written by colored men.” To do that he wrote his own books and used those of other black educators such as the Greek textbook published in 1881 by the leading black classicist of this era, William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926). “For six years I have used with great success Scarborough’s First Lessons in Greek with my beginning Greek classes at the V[irginia] N[ormal] and C[ollegiate] I[nstitute]” (Williams, African Methodist Church Review, 395-396). Williams is said to have been the first faculty member at the school to author a book.
Williams died suddenly on a summer day, Saturday July 27th 1895, at the age of thirty-four. Mention was made in the press at the time of “severe criticism of the medical mismanagement of his case.” His funeral was held on Sunday July 28th at Richmond’s First Baptist Church and was officiated by the renown Reverend James H. Holmes (1826-1900) who in 1862 had bought himself out of slavery. Several professors from his school served as pall bearers including James M. Colson from natural sciences and Robert G. Chissell from the Normal Department. Dr. P.B. Ramsey, a dentist, was also there. Williams’s papers and some of his books from his personal library are held by the Special Collections and Archives in the Johnson Memorial Library at Virginia State University http://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=vsu/vipets00035.xml.
n.a., “Gone Before Prof. D. B. Williams Suddenly Passes Away,” The Richmond Planet (3 August 1895 ) 4; n.a., “In Honor of Late Prof. Daniel Barclay Williams,” The Richmond Planet (2 November 1895 ) 1; n.a., “Prof. Daniel B. Williams,” Cleveland Gazette (14 January, 1888) 1; Trudy Harrington Becker, “Daniel B. Williams, 1861-1895,” CO(Spring, 1999) 94-5; ------, “Broadening Access to a Classical Education: State Universities in Virginia in the Nineteenth Century,” CJ 96 (February-March, 2001): 309-22; D. Webster Davis, “Introductory Sketch of the Author,” Outlines of School Management Containing Lectures on School Necessaries, School Organization, Study, Recitation, Examination, Reviews, and School Government (Petersburg, VA: Daniel B. Williams, 1891) 3-4; John W. Mitchell, “A Sketch of the Life of Professor D. B. Williams, A.M.” in Freedom and Progress and Other Choice Addresses on Scientific, Educational, Philosophic, Historic and Religious Subjects (Petersburg, VA; Daniel B. Williams, 1890) 7-18; Garland I. Penn, “Prof. Daniel Barclay Williams, A.M.,” in The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Springfield, MA: Willey & Co. 1891) 340-4; R.W.
Whiting, “Prof. D.B. Williams, A Prominent Author, Scholar and Educator---a Mathematician, Linguist and Polished Speaker---His Last Work---A Man of Executive Talent,” Indianapolis Freeman (2 March, 1889): 1.
AUTHORMichele Valerie Ronnick