Jakobi Williams

Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor, Department of History, Chair, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

Jakobi Williams was born and raised on the south side of Chicago (Englewood). Prior to joining the faculty at Indiana University, he served as an associate professor of History at the University of Kentucky, an adjunct professor at UCLA, and spent one year as a Chancellor Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He received his BA in History from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, his MA in African American Studies and PhD in History both from UCLA.  

Dr. Jakobi Williams is the Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor at Indiana University-Bloomington. He is Chair of the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies and holds a joint appointment in the Department of History.  He is a Civil Rights, Black Power, Social Justice, and African American history scholar.  He has provided hundreds of invited lectures domestically and abroad on the subjects of Civil Rights and social justice movements.  Dr. Williams has served as an consultant regarding Civil Rights issues and history for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, The National Civil Rights Museum, The Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the Kairos-Center for Religion, Rights, and Social Justice—which helped to found the New Poor People’s Campaign led by Rev. Barber.  His most recent book, From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago, was published by the University of North Carolina Press under the prestigious John Hope Franklin Series and the book was the foundation for the script to the Warner Brothers film, Judas and the Black Messiah

His other peer reviewed publications have appeared in the Journal for Civil and Human Rights; Black Perspectives; Black Women, Gender, and Families; Journal of Pan African Studies; University of Georgia Press; University of Wisconsin Press; and the New Press.  His work can also be found in Jacobin Magazine, Tikkun, Mother Jones, Gawker, Vox, and the Indianapolis Star.  Dr. Williams has appeared in dozens of media programs in radio, television, newspaper, and podcast formats.  A brief list includes, NBC News, Time, Vox, WXIN Fox59 Morning News Show, WISH-TV (Channel 8 Indianapolis), WAVE 3 (Louisville), WPTA-TV (Ft Wayne), 89.1FM NPR Fort Wayne-Lake Shore Public Radio, Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Recorder, the National Humanities Center’s Nerds in the Woods Podcast, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Hard History Podcast.  

Dr. Williams most recent awards include the Mellon Foundation funded Black Metropolitan Research Consortium fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the National Humanities Center fellowship, and the Big Ten Academic Alliance-Academic Leadership Program award. 

Dr. Williams is completing two books, Neighborhoods First and Global Call of Power to the People. Both books examine the monumental impact of the Black Panther Party (BPP) on non-African American groups both domestically and abroad as a model for grassroots community organizing to address disparities and disadvantages. Moreover, both books demonstrate why and how groups emulated the BPP as a means for political and social change and to highlight the transnational importance of African American grassroots political activism. Neighborhoods First examines organizations in Chicago that established the multiracial original Rainbow Coalition in 1968. Global Call of Power to the People is a study of groups in Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Palestine, Italy, and India that did not have any direct contact with the BPP but chose to create movements in their countries modeled after the Panthers grassroots community organizing and racial coalition strategies.

Research Interests

  • African American History
  • 20th Century United States History
  • Black Panther Party
  • Black Power/Civil Rights Movement
  • Social Justice Movements
  • Chicago Politics


  • Ph.D. at UCLA, 2008



  • From the Bullet to the Ballot: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and Racial Coalition Politics in Chicago. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture.
  • Co-Editor, with Dionne Bennett, Candace Moore, and Ulli K. Ryder. Revolutions of the Mind: Cultural Studies in the African Diaspora Project, 1996-2002. Los Angeles: UCLA Center for Afro-American Studies Publications, 2003.


  • “Power to the People: A Curriculum for Teaching the Black Panther Party and the Transition from Civil Rights to Black Power”, in Hasan Jeffries, ed., Understanding and Teaching the Civil Rights Movement, The Harvey Goldberg Series for Understanding and Teaching History, University of Wisconsin Press, November 2019, p. 185-196.
  • “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution”: A Reflection on Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton’s Life and Legacy 50 Years after his Assassination, Harvard Blackletter Law Journal, Volume 35, September, 2019, p. 77-83.
  • “The Legacy of King’s Influence From Black Power to Black Lives Matter”, in How Far Have We Come?: Dr. King’s Legacy in the 21st Century, The National Civil Rights Museum, 2019, p. 72-77. https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/compendium
  • “Black Power and the Gendered Imaginary”, Journal of Civil and Human Rights (University of Illinois Press), Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2018, p. 95-99.
  • “Black Power and the Gendered Imaginary”, Scholarly Roundtable on Ashley Farmer’s book Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era”, in Black Perspectives (African American Intellectual Historical Society), 2018. https://www.aaihs.org/black-power-and-the-gendered-imaginary/
  • “Black Power to Black Lives Matter”, in MLK50 Where Do We Go From Here?, by The National Civil Rights Museum. 2018 http://mlk50.civilrightsmuseum.org/50-voices-50-years/posts/the-legacy-of-kings-influence-from-black-power-to-black-lives-matter
  • “‘We Need to Unite with as Many People as Possible’: The Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords Organization in Chicago”, in Brian D. Behnken, ed., Beyond Civil Rights: African American and Latino/a Activism in the Twentieth Century United States, University of Georgia Press, April 2016.

  • “The Black Power Movement, The Black Panther Party, and Racial Coalitions”, in Sylviane A. Diouf and Komozi Woodard, eds., Black Power 50, The New Press, 2016, p. 29-50.
  • “Don’t No Woman Got to do Nothing She Don’t Want to do’: Gender, Activism, and the Illinois Black Panther Party”. Black Women, Gender, and Families. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 2012): 29-54.
  • “Nat Turner: The Complexity of His Religious Background”, Journal of Pan-African Studies, Vol. 4, No. 9, (January 2012): 113-147.

Honors and Awards

2020: Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship.
Office of Vice President for International Affairs, Faculty Exchange Program, Indiana University.
2020: Course Development Grant, Russian and East European Institute (REEI), the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center (IAUNRC), and the Center for the Study of Global Change (CGC), Indiana University.
2019: The Summer Institute on Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, at Duke University.
2017: Big Ten Academic Alliance, Academic Leadership Program
2016: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship
National Humanities Center Fellowship
Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society, Faculty Seed Grant, Indiana University.
College of Arts and Humanities Institute, Travel Research Grant, Indiana University.
Office of Vice President for International Affairs, Overseas Conference Grant, Indiana University.
Institute for Advanced Studies, Individual Research Award, Indiana University.
Institute for Advanced Studies, Consultation Fellowship, Indiana University.
Gateway Program Grant, Indiana University.