Mellon “Just Futures” Project at Williams College

Reimagining New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty, and Freedom

Williams College’s collaboration with Williams-Mystic Coastal and Ocean Studies Program, Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and Mystic Seaport Museum is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Launched in January 2021, Williams Just Futures concludes in 2024. Our collaborative, interdisciplinary public humanities project, co-led by faculty and co-PIs, developed constructs to support critical thinking and ethical commitments for students, communities, scholars, and teachers seeking to understand and engage with the historical and contemporary issues of Indigenous, African-American, and Afro-Indigenous communities within and beyond the Northeast. Through roundtables, interviews, texts, student research and leadership, and community support and a forthcoming anthology, we study and address the impacts of colonization and enslavement and acknowledge the continuous work done by Black and Indigenous communities to attain freedom, self-determination, and cultural respect and rights.

EXPANDING “LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS” for relevancy and inclusivity.


We respectfully acknowledge that Williams College stands on the ancestral homelands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, who are the Indigenous peoples of the region now called Williamstown. Following tremendous hardship after being forced from their valued homelands, they continued as a sovereign Tribal Nation in Wisconsin, which is where they reside today. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all.


We recognize that the institutions we occupy, where we are privileged to learn and teach, have developed in places where Indigenous and African people have been enslaved and rendered unfree in other ways.  Given the labor extraction that is foundational to such colleges and universities, we ask for and seek ways of making restitution that will constitute some forms of freedom.

ENGAGE anthology (forthcoming) based on 2022-2023 roundtables/interviews



View roundtables here. 




Indigenous Peoples Film Festival
Images Cinema, Fri. Nov. 10-Sun. Nov. 12, 2023
All are welcome: free admission

An Indigenous Peoples Film Festival at Images Cinema, located on the homelands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Williamstown, MA, grew out of  a collaboration between Williams College students working with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s Cultural Affairs Department. Co-funded by the Williams College President’s Office and the Williams Just Futures initiative and led by students enrolled in HIST 276: Stockbridge-Munsee Community Histories, Presents, and Futures (Spring 2023), the festival, which was free to the public, offered the following films by Indigenous filmmakers including Thunderheart, a 1992 film shown in tribute to Sheila Tousey, a Stockbridge-Munsee Community tribal member featured in the film.

2022-2023 Roundtables and Interviews

“Captivity, Betrayal and Community” (Student 2022 Projects)

(featured in Williams College Today)

Following a Just Futures team meeting with the Class of ’72 on September 30, 2022, we engaged in dialogue around experiential learning.  One result from that generative discussion was that the senior seminar students in American Studies, hearing of the discussion, decided to engage with alumni and their experiences in civil rights and human rights. The seminar focused on Indigenous and African and Afro-American enslavement during and after the formal colonization period that devastated cultures and peoples in the Americas an Africa. The US, Africa, and Cuba (in both its historical and contemporary constructs) were the central areas of study. Students in Prof. Joy James’s Fall 2022 course “Cuba, US, Africa, and Resistance to Black Enslavement, 1791-1991,” an American Studies Senior Seminar, interviewed Williams College alumni about their work.

Access the interviews here

Forthcoming publication: Joy  James, ENGAGE: Theorizing Indigenous, African/Black & Afro-Indigenous Futures

ENGAGE is an anthology built around roundtable discussions and individual reflections of organizers and educators. Its contributors analyze, critique, and debate through progressive or radical pedagogies shaped by Black and Indigenous communities seeking human rights, or revolution. The content for the edited volume which offers digital interviews on its website focuses on Black and Indigenous activists and educators from the 1960s to present day. The topics range from spirituality through environmentalism, security, freedom, autonomy, anti-Blackness and family and child protections and freedoms. Conducted through 2022 – 2023, supported by the Williams College Just Futures grant, via the Mellon Foundation, with student and alumni and activist input, we designed an (anti)academic text to explore our common and divergent templates that stabilize the relational and political desires of Indigenous, African, Afro Indigenous to overcome historical genocide and displacement and disposability to the larger culture and nation. With varied politics, contributors entwine or distance from other communities as discussions of capture and subjugation as well as resistance and education for the return of kin, land and the rendering of compensation to communities which have faced genocidal violence as well as building education beyond the theft, appropriation and expropriation of land, language, culture, labor and bodily integrity.

Read more about the book here.

Joy  James, In Pursuit of Revolutionary LoveCover of Joy James's book In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love

Book of conversations with organizers- intellectuals donated to incarcerated readers. 

Joy James’  In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love: Precarity, Power, Communities (Divided Publishing, 2023), with Foreword by Da’Shaun L. Harrison and Afterword by Mumia Abu-Jamal, a collection of conversations with organizers and intellectuals, was donated to incarcerated readers. The IPORL text based on community dialogues includes this reflection:  “Violence is arrayed against us because we’re Black, or female, or queer, or undocumented. There is no rescue team coming for us. With that knowledge, we need a different operational base to recreate the world. It is not going to be a celebrity savior. Never was, never will be. If you’re in a religious tradition that is millennia-old, consider how the last savior went out. It was always going to be bloody. It was always going to be traumatic. But there’s a beauty to facing the reality of our lives. Not our lives as they’re broken apart, written about, and then sold back to us in academic or celebrity discourse. But our lives as we understand them. The most important thing is showing up. Showing up and learning how to live by and with others, learning how to reinvent ourselves in this increasing wasteland. That’s the good life.”

Read more about the book here.

Read the Preface, “Oshun’s Flight,” and Afterword by Mumia Abu-Jamal at the link below.

J James IPORL Preface _ Mumia Afterword