Williams, Charles H. (1896–1978) By Paris, Carl
In a career spanning 1910–1951, Charles H. Williams was a pioneering educator, author, choreographer, and athletic director at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, an all-Black school that focused on the vocational education of young people. His interest in dance came from his work developing new ways to connect physical education, creative movement, and recreation with self-improvement and moral development. Echoing the New Negro philosophy of the Harlem Renaissance and paralleling the efforts of Edna Guy, Hemsley Winfield, and Asadata Dafora, he believed that dance served the important purpose of connecting African Americans to their heritage. Inspired in part by his association with modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn, he founded the Hampton Institute Creative Dance Group in 1934. At a time when higher education was largely segregated, this non-professional African-American concert dance group toured nationally and, in so doing, created a place for modern dance within historically Black colleges and an audience for modern dance among the Black middle-class.