Dr. James L. Conyers, Director of the UH African American Studies Program, dies at 59

Dr. James “Jim” Conyers, longtime director of the University of Houston African American Studies Program, died Monday at age 59.

Described by UH colleagues as a prolific scholar, author and researcher extraordinaire, Conyers is credited with transforming UH’s African American STudies Program, and making it a force in Houston’s Black community.

“I am deeply saddened to announce that our beloved professor, scholar, author and philanthropist James ‘Jim’ Conyers, director of the UH African American studies program, has passed away,” said Dr. Daniel P. O’Connor, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “While our community is mourning the loss, we have been blessed to know such an impactful activist and scholar. His commitment to racial justice and helping those in need, which he put into action by personally endowing the William Alexander Lawson Social Justice Scholarship for African American studies majors, will endure on our campus and in our community for generations to come.”

Conyers’ awards included the University Teaching Excellence Award (University of Nebraska at Omaha) and the Chiekh Anta Diop Award for Research and Publication in the discipline of African American Studies (Temple University).

A recipient of many other academic/professional and community awards, Conyers’ degrees earned are impressive in and of themselves. These include:

  • B.A., Ramapo College of NJ, Communication Arts, 1983
  • M.A., University of Albany, Africana Studies, 1984
  • Cornell University, (Studied Kiswahili) 1991.
  • Ph.D., Temple University, African American Studies, 1992.
  • Columbia University, Oral History Institute, Summer 1995.
  • Archival and Oral History Research, University of Ghana, University of Science and Technology, and the University of Cape Coast, 2003-2006.

A prolific author and editor of professional publications in his field, Conyers is probably more well-known for his humble nature, and commitment to empowering others.

Community organizer, social activist and digital PR expert Secunda Joseph is a UH alumna and former Conyers student who credits him with much of her success.

“Even though I was a communications major, the UH School of Communications offered little support in my efforts to secure an internship and learn more about PR,” said Joseph, owner of Grass is Greener PR. “Dr. Conyers, however, not only helped me secure an internship in my field, but after graduation as I was trying to start my own PR firm without knowing really what to do, he put me in contact with a graduate student in UH’s Bauer School of Business who mentored me.”

Joseph also said Conyers was appreciated by countless students who took African American Studies courses for his commitment to seeking scholarships for students, founding an AAS honors program and an annual study abroad program, taking students on an annual pilgrimage to Ghana.

“He was truly a man of the people, and will be sorely missed,” added Joseph, who, like Conyers, is committed to keeping the conversation about Pan-African people, history and current reality alive as host of “Imagine a World,” a weekly radio talk show on All Real Radio (allrealradio.com, Sundays, 10-11am).

A valued member of the UH community for nearly 20 years, Professor Conyers’ legacy will live on. According to the UH AAS program, Conyers’ family has elected to hold a private ceremony and request that in lieu of flowers, they are requesting donations to be made to the William A. Lawson Social Justice Endowment.

Additionally, the University of Houston is scheduling a memorial service, the date of which has yet to be announced.