illustration of street celebration

Illustration by Diana Ejaita

Editor’s Note: The publication before you is unlike anything we at Williams Magazine have attempted before.

It’s a special issue focused on two major forces shaping our campus and our world: a pandemic that has upended nearly every aspect of daily life, exacerbating systemic, structural inequalities; and the ongoing horrors of racism and brutality against Black Americans. You can read more about Williams’ responses to these forces in a letter by President Maud S. Mandel.

This issue of the magazine also creates space for more contributors than ever. At a time when our community was reeling and raw, we asked Williams people to help make sense of where we are now. Their poems, essays, stories and interviews fill this magazine. We thank them for entrusting their words and ideas to our care.

Williams Magazine is the result of measured and thoughtful writing and thinking on topics that defy easy explanation. One aspect of that work is presenting “the first rough draft of history,” as journalism has been described by Washington Post Publisher Philip L. Graham and others.

The magazine also aspires to what Claudia Rankine ’86, whose poem “Weather” appears in this issue, calls “unknowing.” As she defines it in an interview with, unknowing is “the will to keep questioning the things that work against the potential for a better life, a more equitable one, a more inclusive, justice-filled one.”

Both in print and online, Williams Magazine will continue to make space for complex conversations and the diversity of voices and experiences of our communities.

There’s so much more to be written. We hope you’ll keep reading.

—Amy T. Lovett, Editor in Chief


This issue of Williams Magazine is the winner of a CASE Circle of Excellence Award.

Portrait of Claudia Rankine


Poem by Claudia Rankine ’86
Illustration of people embracing one another

Fighting for Our Lives

The physical and psychological injuries of racism.
Essay by Jessica Graham-LoPresti ’06
Illustration of parents and a young child sitting on the edge of a diving board with feet in the water.

Navigating Uncertainty

How to develop malleability and flexibility.
Essay by Lynn Gerwig Lyons ’87
Illustration of the side of a building with views into five different windows.

Flattening the Loneliness Curve

The need for intergenerational connection.
Essay by Eunice Lin Nichols ’97
Illustration of a sailboat. The sails are made of a manila folder and papers.

Grieving the Loss of Employment

The hard journey back to work.
Essay by Chris Rudnicki ’11
Portrait of Nicole Alvarez

A Williams Professor Once Told Me, “Don’t Use Your Poetry as a Soapbox”

Poem by Nicole Alvarez ’22
Illustration of a bird and protestors

Facing the Truth

Justice and equity require ”good trouble.”
Essay by Virginia Cumberbatch ’10
Illustration of a man walking along a fallen tree while reading a book.

Resurrecting Vanishing Narratives

The future of memory in Williamstown.
Essay by Christine DeLucia
Illustration of balloons in the shape of 200 with banners and streamers.

Toward a More Perfect Williams

Marking the alumni society bicentennial.
Essay by Laura Moberg Lavoie ’99 and Aroop Mukharji ’09
Illustration of three adults and two children tending to plants.

Protecting the Food Insecure

A call for more resilient food systems.
Essay by Marion Min-Barron
Illustration of man sitting on the top of a tree looking towards a distant city.

Leaving the World Behind

The literature of solitude.
Essay by Christopher Nugent
Portrait of Bret Hairston


Poem by Bret Hairston ’21
Illustration of seven women with arms interlocked with police cars in the background.

Promises Broken

Abolition's long history.
Essay by Joy James
Illustration of a bird

Learning from Reconstruction

A turning point in our history?
Essay by Robert D. Bland ’07
Illustration of a young child standing near the edge of a hole that is shaped like a house.

Unsafe at Home

Covid-19's impact on lower-income populations.
Essay by Owen Thompson
Illustration of people at a city intersection

Experience and Expectation

The lessons of Reinhart Koselleck.
Essay by Thomas Kohut
Illustration showing a woman sitting under a tree looking outwards.

On the World’s End

Apocalypse and the quest to make meaning.
Essay by Jacqueline Hidalgo
Illustration of parent and child on a bus in New York City looking out the windows wearing protective masks.

Unmasking New York City

Though tested, the city can rebound.
Essay by Mason B. Williams
St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic. Photograph shows mask-wearing women holding stretchers at backs of ambulances.

Rejecting the Politics of Blame

A history of scapegoating.
Essay by K. Scott Wong
Illustration of five people in lab coats standing around a crystal ball.

Responding to the Virus

Will a vaccine come quickly and safely?
Essay by Lois Banta
Portrait of Drea Finley

“I Can’t Breathe”—A Black National Anthem

Poem by Drea Finley