Edward Christopher Williams was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1871. He was schooled at Western Reserve University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and valedictorian, and at the New York State Library School. Williams is documented as the first Black American to graduate from a library school. He was a notable scholar, a brilliant teacher, and a pivotal developer of education for librarians. He was married to Ethel Chesnutt, the daughter of Charles W. Chesnutt, author of the seminal novel The House Behind the Cedars . Williams died of a sudden illness in Washington, D.C., in 1929 at the age of fifty-eight.