Mellon “Just Futures” Project at Williams College

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

This grant-funded project is a collaboration between Williams College–including the Williams-Mystic Coastal and Ocean Studies Program–Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, and Mystic Seaport Museum.  Supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative, this project aims to tell a different, more complete story of the Northeast and its global connections–past, present, and future.  

This initiative, titled “Reimagining New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty, and Freedom,” launched in January 2021 and continues through Spring 2024.  As a collaborative, interdisciplinary public humanities project, it aims to reshape the ways young people, communities, scholars, and college students understand the history and present-day of the Northeast.  

Building upon generations of community-led work and scholarship, the project employs the sea as one lens to grapple with intertwined histories of Indigenous, African-American, and Afro-Indigenous experiences in the Northeast, and the closely related impacts of colonization and enslavement that have so deeply affected multiple communities.  Equally important, the project foregrounds the continuous work Black communities and sovereign Native nations have undertaken to maintain freedom, self-determination, and cultural thriving in this region.

This work is about the future.

We hope and expect that the initiative will be groundwork for continuing efforts at Williams that foster closer attention to urgent issues of social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in the twenty-first century.  As we engage with the past, in all of its complexities and contradictions, we do so in order to collaboratively devise more equitable and accountable pathways forward.  We pursue this work through deeper connections among students, faculty, staff, and communities.

Please browse our website for further information about current and forthcoming project work, and to learn more about our partners and collaborators.

In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love event poster April 24 at Williams College

Event poster for Conquest, Betrayal, Community series Spring 2023

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

Read about this work 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

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

Joy James has published a new book, In Pursuit of Revolutionary Love: Precarity, Power, Communities (Divided Publishing, 2023), with Foreword by Da’Shaun L. Harrison and Afterword by Mumia Abu-Jamal.  “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