Institute Founder

Former Director's Column

Dr. Rhonda is an expert in social inequality and has a passion for social justice. She has an article in the book Social Justice and Social Work: Rediscovering a Core Value of the Profession, a piece that details the founding of CWRU's own Social Justice Institute. To learn more about how the SJI came to be and get an idea to where the institute is going, view a book excerpt. To see more parts of this interesting book and other social justice perspectives, look it up.

One June 30, 2017, Dr. Rhonda issued a farewell message to SJI supporters: A Farewell Message.

On May 9, 2017, Dr. Rhonda invited the SJI community to Continuing Conversations, a new website: Continuing Conversations. 

On February 27, 2017, Dr. Rhonda shared a letter with the SJI community: Words of Encouragement.

On February 6, 2017, Dr. Rhonda shared a letter with the SJI community:  Frederick Douglass: A Social Justice History Lesson for Now.

Rhonda Y. Williams

Headshot of Case Western Reserve University Social Justice Institute Founder Rhonda Williams

Founder and Inaugural Director of the Social Justice Institute

Social Justice Institute founder and inaugural director Rhonda Y. Williams, PhD, served as a professor of history. During her two-decade tenure as a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University, she also founded and directed the Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Studies. Following her time at CWRU, she became the inaugural John L. Seigenthaler Chair in American History and Professor in History and African American Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Dr. Williams recently joined the Department of African American Studies at Wayne State University as the Coleman A. Young Foundation Endowed Chair and Professor in August 2023.

Her research interests include:

  • Manifestations of race and gender inequality on urban space and policy,
  • History of low-income people's lives and activism,
  • Social justice and movements and
  • Illicit narcotics economies in the post-1940s United States.

The author of Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (2015) and the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles against Urban Inequality (2005), Williams has been honored by History News Network as a Top Young Historian; the Organization of American Historians as a Distinguished Lecturer; and is listed in the 2009 and 2015 editions of Who's Who in Black Cleveland. Williams is a recipient of an American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellowship and a former Harvard University W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow. She is the co-editor of the recently launched book series, Justice, Power, and Politics, with the University of North Carolina Press and co-editor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement.

Williams received her PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998 and her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Maryland College Park in 1989, where she became that university's first black salutatorian in its then 187-year history.

Interviews with Dr. Rhonda Williams: What is social justice? What is the Social Justice Institute

Dr Rhonda with Angela Davis

Dr. Rhonda with Angela Y. Davis, activist and scholar, at Think Tank 2015.