Jakobi Williams

Jakobi Williams

Ruth N. Halls Professor

Director of Graduate Studies, African American and African Diaspora Studies

Associate Professor, African American and African Diaspora Studies

Associate Professor, History


  • Ph.D., UCLA, 2008


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.

Williams’ research interests are centered on questions of resistance and the social justice revolutions found within the historic African American community. 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 its prestigious John Hope Franklin Series. In this comprehensive history of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party (ILBPP), Williams demonstrates that the city's Black Power movement was both a response to and an extension of the city's civil rights movement. Williams focuses on the life and violent death of Fred Hampton, a charismatic leader who served as president of the NAACP Youth Council and chairman of the revolutionary Chicago-based Black Panther Party. Framing the story of Hampton and the ILBPP as a social and political history and using, for the first time, sealed secret police files in Chicago and interviews conducted with often reticent former members of the ILBPP, Williams explores how Hampton helped develop racial coalitions between the ILBPP and other local activists and organizations.

Williams also recounts the history of the original Rainbow Coalition, created in response to Richard J. Daley's Democratic machine, to show how the Panthers worked to create an antiracist, class-based socialist coalition to fight urban renewal, political corruption, and police brutality.

Williams is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the National Humanities Center fellowship, and the Big Ten Academic Alliance-Academic Leadership Program. He 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, 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


  • 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.
  • “‘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.
  • “Black Power: Alliances and Dissension”, in Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Black Power, A Catalog, The New Press, January 2016.
  • “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

  • 2017: Big Ten Academic Alliance--Academic Leadership Program
  • 2016: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship
  • 2016: National Humanities Center Fellowship
  • 2015: Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society, Faculty Seed Grant, Indiana University.
  • 2015: College of Arts and Humanities Institute, Travel Research Grant, Indiana University.
  • 2015: Office of Vice President for International Affairs, Overseas Conference Grant, Indiana University.
  • 2015: Institute for Advanced Studies, Individual Research Award, Indiana University.
  • 2015: Institute for Advanced Studies, Consultation Fellowship, Indiana University.
  • 2015: Gateway Program Grant, Indiana University