Harvard University Acquires the Family Papers of Professor Patricia J. Williams

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University has acquired the archives of the family of Patricia J. Williams, the James L. Dohr Professor at the Columbia University School of Law. The archives include 65 boxes of family documents going back more than century.

Professor Williams notes that “my family are pack rats. They saved everything. They took pictures of everything. They kept detailed journals and scrapbooks; they published articles and books; and they often were themselves the subject of articles, particularly in the African-American press.” The archives include papers that were stored in her parents attic in Boston and at their summer home in Martha’s Vineyard.

Williams’ great-grandfather on her father’s side, was in his 70s when he walked away from the swamps of north Florida, where he had been enslaved. He made it to a “maroon” colony in South Carolina, where runaway slaves, Native Americans, and abolitionist missionaries lived. After settling there, he married a younger woman with whom he had eight children, all of whom survived. Williams’ grandfather, the eldest, lived to be 96, and the other children lived to be over 100.

Professor Williams has taught at Columbia University since 1991. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School.


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