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Patricia J. Williams

Columnist

Patricia J. Williams is a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School. She began her career practicing law as a consumer advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Upon leaving practice, she served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Harvard University Women’s Studies Program, and CUNY Law School at Queen’s College. Since 1992, she has been the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law.

She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Northeastern University School of Law, John Jay College of the City University of New York, the College of Wooster, Smith College, and Old Dominion University. She has received numerous awards, including from from her alma maters—an Outstanding Alumna Award from Latin School in Boston, an Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and a Graduate Society Medal from Harvard.

Her book The Alchemy of Race and Rights was named one of the twenty-five best books of 1991 by the Voice Literary Supplement; one of the “feminist classics of the last twenty years” that “literally changed women’s lives” by Ms. magazine; and one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by Amazon.com. Other books include The Rooster’s Egg (Harvard Press, 1995), Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998), and Open House: On Family, Food, Piano Lessons, and The Search for a Room of My Own (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2004).

Professor Williams has appeared on radio and television shows around the world, and in 1997 delivered the annual Reith Lectures for the BBC, Radio Four. She has appeared in a number of documentary films, including “That Rush!” which she wrote and narrated. Directed by British film-maker Isaac Julien, this short study of American talk show hosts was featured as part of an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London.

She has held fellowships at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth, the Humanities Research Institute of the University of California at Irvine, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In 2000, she was named a MacArthur fellow.


  • Election 2004 September 30, 2004

    Wonderland

    It is exasperating listening to the news as we approach this most important election. The coverage is all about comparing the length of the candidate's sentences. How many big words do they use?

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Environment September 16, 2004

    All Creatures Great and Small

    It was an odd dream: The Bush twins were ten feet tall and peering in my window. They were snickering. "We had a hamster too..." they were saying, as though it were the merriest of threats.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Economy September 2, 2004

    Economic Bad Boys

    When the "scrawny boy from Austria" delivered his peroration against faint-hearted "economic girlie men," it was an unusually seductive, even witty, appeal to a notion of free enterprise that is

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Election 2004 July 15, 2004

    Lead Balloons

    I'm riding an elevator in downtown Boston. There is a sign warning of travel restrictions during the last week of July. A woman gets on. We both stare ahead as per elevator etiquette.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Corporations June 24, 2004

    Unnatural Acts

    By now, it has become something of a media cliché to watch "fringe" protesters jumping up and down from the edges of G-8 conferences held at ever more remote locations.

    Patricia J. Williams

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  • Society June 10, 2004

    To See or Not to See

    Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority recently announced a new policy of stopping people "randomly" to request identification from those whom police believe to be acting "suspicious

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Law May 27, 2004

    Slow Motion

    The Justice Department recently announced its intention to reopen the Emmett Till case.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Armed Conflicts May 13, 2004

    In Kind

    As of this writing, seven in ten Americans want Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to remain at his post, a vote of confidence that exceeds that even for the President himself.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Armed Conflicts April 29, 2004

    For Their Own Good

    One of my favorite little films is a satirical documentary titled Babakiueria.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Political Figures April 15, 2004

    Unimagined Communities

    This year is the tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa, the fortieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruli

    Patricia J. Williams