Kidada Williams

Kidada Williams

Associate Professor


 3069 Faculty/Administration Building

Kidada Williams

Kidada E. Williams researches African Americans' experiences of racist violence. Here at Wayne State, she teaches courses on African American and American history and historical research methods.

The earliest proponents of what we call African American or Black American history intended for their research to reach the broadest possible audience. Williams's embrace of this rich tradition informs her commitment to sharing her expertise widely.

She started this work as a graduate student researching the Underground Railroad in Washtenaw County, Michigan, and co-creating a bus tour. She has given talks at a variety of public institutions including the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Henry Ford Museum, and America's Civil War Museum. She regularly contributes to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes, which help K-12 teachers broaden their understandings of U.S. history and develop new strategies for teaching challenging subject matter. She has appeared on PBS's award-winning series, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War, NPR's "Morning Edition" and "On Point," WDET's "Detroit Today," and "BackStory with the American History Guys." Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, DAME, Slate, and Bridge Magazine.

Williams is also one of the co-developers of #CharlestonSyllabus, a crowd-sourced project that helped people understand the historical context surrounding the 2015 racial massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.

Lately, she has been extending her commitment to African American history by sharing her expertise on survivors of anti-black violence on podcasts, like Scene on Radio's The Land That Has Never Been Yet and the Slate Academy history series on Reconstruction. Someday, she hopes to produce short history documentaries. She was the host and co-producer of Seizing Freedom, a podcast docudrama that covered the epic story of African Americans' fight for freedom during the Civil War and beyond.

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

  • U.S. History
  • African American History
  • History of Violence


Williams investigates African Americans tesimonies' about their traumatic injuries from racist violence after slavery. She is the author of I Saw Death Coming and They Left Great Marks on Me. She has published "Legacies of Violence" (in the National Museum of African American History and Culture's Make Good the Promises), "Writing Victims' Personhoods and People into the History of Lynching," "Never Get Over It,"  "Maintaining a Radical Vision of African Americans in the Age of Freedom," "The Wounds that Cried Out," and "Regarding the Aftermaths of Lynching." Her research has been supported twice by fellowships from the Ford Foundation.

Graduate Research Supervision
Williams would be interested in supervising graduate students who wish to work on any topic relating to her research interests and whose theoretical orientations align with hers regarding Black Studies approaches to Black History and U.S. History and Critical Trauma Studies approaches to histories of violence. She also welcomes proposals regarding any aspect of African Americans' life, history, and culture.

Williams is best suited to supervise students who already have the makings of a historical research agenda--including a likely research question, an archive identified, and some knowledge of the historiography for the specific subject. Students wishing to learn more about how to craft a research agenda would do well to read and model the best research practices spelled out in Jules Benjamin's A Student's Guide to History and Wayne C. Booth et al, eds., The Craft of Research.


  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2005
  • M.A., Central Michigan University, 1998
  • B.S., Central Michigan University, 1996

Awards and grants

  • Career Development Chair, Wayne State University, 2014

  • Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award, Wayne State University, 2013

  • President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Wayne State University, 2011

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Award for Teaching, Wayne State University, 2011

  • Humanities Center Faculty Fellowship Competition, Wayne State University, 2011

  • Ford Foundation Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2008

  • Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, “Topographies of Violence” Residency Research Grant, The University of Michigan, Fall 2008

  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for Minorities, 2002

Selected publications


I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction. Bloomsbury, 2023.
They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I. New York University Press, 2012.

Edited Books
With Chad Williams and Keisha N. Blain, Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence. University of Georgia Press, 2016.

A portion of the royalties will go to the Lowcountry Ministries Fund to address issues of social justice and economic empowerment in underserved communities in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Articles and Chapters

“Legacies of Violence,” in Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Paul Gardullo, eds., Make Good the Promises: Reclaiming Reconstruction and Its Legacies2021.

"Writing Lynching Victims' Personhoods and People into the History of Lynching," Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 19:4 (2020).

"Never Get Over It: Night Riding's Imprint on Its African American Victims," in Reconstruction and the Arc of Racial (in)Justice Edward Elgar, 2018.

"Maintaining a Radical Vision of African Americans in the Age of Freedom," Journal of the Civil War Era 7:1 (2017).

"The Wounds that Cried Out: Reckoning with African Americans' Testimonies of Trauma and Suffering from Nightriding" in Gregory Downs and Kate Masur, eds. The World the Civil War Made. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

"Regarding the Aftermaths of Lynching," Journal of American History 101:4 (2014).

Select Public Scholarship and Appearances

Zinn Education Project, Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle Online

AskHistorians, Histories of Violence

Respectfully Yours, Gainer Atkins, BackStory Radio

The Psychic Toll of Night Rides, Slate

With Danielle L. McGuire, Raped and left on the road, she said #MeToo. Jurors said, 'No, not You.' and Say Her Name. Shawana Hall. She is a HeroBridge Magazine

The Difference 10 Miles Makes, BackStory Radio 

Centuries of Violence (on the massacre at Charleston's AME Church), Slate

Account for the Pillaging of African-American Freedom, New York Times

Trayvon Martin killing: The legacy of extralegal racial violence continues on, NYU Press

Currently teaching

  • Fall 2022 | African Americans, History & Memory (AFS/HIS 5261/7261) | 3 credits
  • Fall 2022 | African American History I (AFS/HIS 3140) | 3 credits
  • Winter 2023 | Researching Detroit Under Coleman Young (HIS 3000)


    OR Vexy Things: Race and Sex in Nineteenth Century America 

  • Winter 2023 | African American History II (AFS/HIS 3150) | 3 credits

Historian's Craft: Detroit 1967 & Detroit under Coleman Young (HIS 3000)

Theory and Methods (HIS 7830)

African Americans, History & Memory (HIS 5261/7261) Topics covered: Slavery & Freedom; Civil Rights; Black Detroit; Detroit 1967

African American History I (AFS/HIS 3140)

African American History II (AFS/HIS 3150)

Civil War and Reconstruction (HIS 5040/7040)

American Slavery (HIS 5241/7241)