Rhonda Williams

Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor


Ph.D , University of Pennsylvania, 1998

Rhonda Y. Williams, a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT for 2019-2020, comes to us from Vanderbilt University.  At Vanderbilt, Williams is the inaugural John L. Seigenthaler Chair in American History. She is a scholar  of low-income black women’s and marginalized people’s experiences, everyday lives, politics, and social struggles. Her research contributes to the rethinking of gender, political identity, citizenship, civil rights, black liberation struggles, and interactions with the U.S. state. She is the author of the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles against Urban Inequality (2004) and Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (2015). She is the author of numerous articles and essays, including the forthcoming book chapter titled “Women, Gender, Race, and the Welfare State” in the Oxford Handbook for Women’s and Gender History, co-edited by Lisa Materson and Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor. Williams is also the co-editor of the book series Justice, Power, and Politics at the University of North Carolina Press and is co-editor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement.

At present, Williams is researching illicit narcotics economies in the post-1930s United States, and continues to examine the history of black power politics in the United States.

At Case Western Reserve University where she taught prior to Vanderbilt University, Williams established and directed the Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Studies, and founded and directed the university-wide Social Justice Institute.

She has been honored by the History News Network as a Top Young Historian, is a former recipient of an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a former Harvard University W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow, a well as an Organization of American Historians’ Distinguished Lecturer, and is a life member of the Association of Black Women Historians.