Williams Named Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought

Heather Andrea Williams, Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought in the Department of Africana Studies

Heather Andrea Williams, Professor of Africana Studies, has been named Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought. An internationally recognized historian, Williams was a Presidential Professor from 2014 to this year. Her research focuses on slavery and African American history in the 18th- and 19th-century American South. Her book Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom has won many prizes and awards, including the Lillian Smith Book Award of the Southern Regional Council and the American Educational Research Association New Scholar’s Book Award.  

Williams has also completed a Mellon New Directions Fellowship to train herself to be a documentary filmmaker. She is working on a documentary film called Jamaican Journeys, based on interviews with Jamaicans who migrated to the United States in the 1950s and '60s, in addition to her new monograph, Murder on the Plantation: Violence in the Ante-Bellum South, which is focused on criminal cases involving enslaved people. Williams served as undergraduate and graduate chair of Africana Studies from 2016 to 2019.

The late Bernard (C '28, L'31, Hon '69) and Geraldine (Ed '30, Gr '78) Segal created the Geraldine R. Segal Professorship in American Social Thought in 1978 when Geraldine Segal completed her Ph.D. in sociology at Penn. She was the author of In Any Fight Some Fall and Blacks in the Law. Bernard Segal, a former University Trustee, was one of America's most respected lawyers and received Penn's Alumni Award of Merit in 1977. The professorship is interdisciplinary in nature and awarded to a scholar of national reputation whose central interests include human rights, civil liberties, and race relations.


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