Author, philanthropist, scholar, mentor, and activist James L. Conyers Jr. was born James (Jim/ Naazir) L. Brown Jr. on June 17, 1961, in Jersey City, New Jersey at the Margaret Hague Hospital. He graduated from Henry Snyder High School in 1979 and four years later from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts. That same year he joined the Zeta Nu Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. During his time at Ramapo, James met Jacqueline Pierce and the two were married on May 30, 1985, in East Orange, New Jersey. They had two children, James Sekou Conyers III and Fredrick Kamau Conyers.
Conyers obtained a master’s degree in Africana Studies from the University of Albany in 1984, studied Kiswahili, the Swahili language, at Cornell University in 1991, and completed his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1992. in the summer of 1995, he worked in the Oral History Institute at Columbia University. Conyers began his teaching career at the University of Nebraska in 1999 as an assistant professor of history, and he taught Black studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2000 where he was later tenured and became a full professor. Conyers relocated to Houston, Texas to begin his career at the University of Houston in 2002 as a full professor and director of the African American Studies Program.
Dr. Conyers wrote or collaborated on over 40 books based on his research. Some of these texts include Africana Studies: A Disciplinary Quest for both Theory and Method, (1997); Carter G. Woodson: An Historical Reader, (1999); Muhammad Ali in Africana Cultural Memory, (2001) and Black Cultures and Race Relations, (2002). From 2003 to 2006, he worked in archival research and oral history with the University of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.
James Conyers was member of the National Council of Black Studies and served on the National Board for 22 years. From 2000 to 2007, he served on the Board of Trustees for the Irving Louis Horowitz Foundation Social Policy at Rutgers University. In addition, he was a part of the Association of Black Sociologists for 19 years, and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) for 33 years. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Conyers received numerous accolades and awards. He was also committed to his community and his faith as a loyal member of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.
James L. Conyers Jr. died on Monday, January 25, 2021, at the age of 59. He is survived by his sons and his grandson, James Kareem Conyers IV.