Case Western Reserve University historian Rhonda Y. Williams in the College of Arts and Sciences learned she was named a "Top Young Historian" by the History News Network. She joins a group of young researchers, recognized by the flagship online site that posts news about historians, historical research and current events.
Williams says she regularly visits the History News Network Web site to monitor what her peers at other colleges and universities are doing in the field of history.
"Wow. This is cool," was her reaction to the notification by Bonnie Goodman, HNN's assistant editor. But she is also baffled about who nominated her for the award.
"Through HNN, I watch what the top young scholars are doing," Williams said. "They are an amazing group of historians, and their work is far-reaching and engaging. I feel honored to be included in this group and given this nod and legitimacy in terms of the work I'm doing."
Twenty historians from different fields in history were honored this year. "Each historian on this list has made outstanding contributions to the discipline in their area of research through their commitment and achievement to scholarship and teaching. They are also highly regarded outside academia for their expertise, and many are consulted by the popular media," said Goodman in an online release.
Since her college days, Williams has had a desire to write about people and their lives.
She started as an intern at the Baltimore Evening Sun in her hometown during her undergraduate days at the University of Maryland, and later interned at The New York Times before becoming a general assignment reporter for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.
After working three years as a reporter, she made a career change by going to graduate school in the doctoral program in history at the University of Pennsylvania.
Williams made a personal vow to tell the story of marginalized people, particularly poor African American women, when she entered graduate school.
She has achieved that commitment by focusing her research on grass-roots organizing and its relationship to public policy. She has chronicled the lives of women in public housing in Baltimore through their oral histories, which have become the centerpiece of Williams' book, The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women's Struggles Against Urban Inequality (Oxford University Press, 2004). It is the inaugural book in the interdisciplinary series, Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities and has won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.
Some of the women's oral histories that documented the impact of drugs on their families will contribute to a book-in-progress, The Dope Wars: Street-level Hustling and the Culture of Drugs in Post 1940s Urban America. During fall semester 2007, Williams had a department leave to conduct historical research on illicit narcotic economies in major U.S. cities and examined records in the archives of the Bureau of Narcotics as well as newspaper collections. She also plans to research police and court records as well as examine cultural sources such as film, literature, and music.
Williams is the co-editor with Julie Armstrong, Susan Hult and Houston Roberson of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement: Freedom's Bittersweet Song (Routledge, 2002). She also edited, with Karen Sotiropoulos, Women, Transnationalism and Human Rights, a special issue of the Radical History Review 101, which will be published this year.
Williams joined the Case Western Reserve University faculty in 1997 and advanced to associate professor in 2004. She teaches courses on African American, women's and urban history.
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