The Lorraine A. Williams Leadership Award competition is not open for 2023. Please check back for details in Spring 2024.

The Lorraine A. Williams Leadership Award is a distinction that honors a Black woman in education or related areas, such as archives, libraries, historical societies, museums, etc.


  • Nominees must be outstanding scholars, administrators, or teachers who have demonstrated mentoring skills, not only in teaching or related work but in providing networks that enhance the professional growth of other black women scholars and students.
  • Nominees must have demonstrated organizational leadership in groups, organizations, or institutions that impact black women.
  • Nominees need not be a member of ABWH.
  • All nominations must be accompanied by a letter (or letters) that documents each of the above criteria.
  • All nominations must be accompanied by a biography or CV of the nominee should be included.
  • An individual may not nominate herself.

See a list of all ABWH awards here.


Lorraine A. Williams (1923-1996)

by Cynthia Neverdon-Morton

Dr. Lorraine A. Williams, beloved wife, educator, consultant, lecturer, traveler, philanthropist, and humanitarian, died Tuesday, May 21, 1996, at Georgetown University Hospital. Daughter of Allen and Alice Winston Anderson, she was born in Washington, D.C., on August 6, 1923.

A product of the District of Columbia Public School System, she graduated from Dunbar Senior High School at age sixteen in 1940. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Howard University in 1944 and 1945, respectively.

She married Sgt. Charles E. Williams on June 10, 1945. In 1955, she earned the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in American Intellectual History at The American University. Her teaching career at Howard spanned 28 years, beginning as a social science survey course instructor and ending as a full professor and chairman of the Department of History.

When the College of Liberal Arts inaugurated the Honors Program in September 1957, Dr. Williams was elected as a member of its social science faculty. In addition to teaching intellectually gifted students in this program, Dr. Williams also taught in an experimental program for disadvantaged students in the early 1960s.

Fortified by her teaching experience, she became Chairman of the Department of Social Sciences at Howard University in 1962 and served in this position until 1969. While Chairman of the Department of Social Sciences, she was appointed Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts serving in that position from 1967 to 1968. She became Chairman of the Department of History in 1970, and with an EPDA grant, served concurrently as Director of the Afro-American Institute for Secondary School Teachers.

In 1974, Dr. Williams was appointed Vice President for Academic Affairs, the first African-American woman to hold a position of this stature in a major university. She served in this position until her retirement in 1983.

While Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Williams was Editor of The Journal of Negro History from 1974 to 1976. She was appointed by President Carter to serve as a member of the United States Circuit Judge Nominating Panel for the District of Columbia in 1978, and Lincoln University (PA) conferred the honorary degree, Doctor of Laws in 1980. She also served on the Board of Trustees at Johnson C. Smith University and the University of the District of Columbia.

Her membership in learned and professional societies included: The American Judicature Society; The Association for the Study of African American Life and History; American Association of University Women (AAUW), Washington, D.C. branch Executive Board; member of the National Committee, Standards in Higher Education at the National Convention of the AAUW held in Chicago, Illinois; The D.C. Branch, Council of Administrative Women in Education (National Education Association-Historian); Honorary Patroness, Sigma Alpha Iota Fraternity; Honorary Member, Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society; and National Graduate Awards Committee Member, Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society.

She was an editor and co-author of: A Teaching Aid for College Courses in the Social Sciences; A Curriculum in Black History for Secondary Schools; A Curriculum in Afro-American Literature for Secondary Schools; The Second Series of Historical Publications; The Tribute to the Memory of William Leo Hansberry; Proceedings of the Conference, Afro-Americans and Africans: Historical and Political Linkages; Africa and the Afro-American Experience; and Histoire de la Diaspora Noire-Temoignages (Nouveau Horizons) (Translation of Africa and the Afro-American Experience).

Her brochures, articles, and books included: The Sixtieth Anniversary Bulletin of the Department of History; Black Congressmen: Past and Present; “The International Conference of Women,” The Journal of Negro Education 26, No. 2; “Intellectual Reaction to Conscription in the Civil War,” The Journal of Social Science Teachers 6, No. 5; “Northern Intellectual Reaction to the Policy of Emancipation,” The Journal of Negro History, 61; “The Acceptance of the Civil War by Northern Intellectuals,” The Journal of Negro Education 31, No. 4; “Northern Intellectual Attitudes Toward Lincoln, 1860-1865,” The Journal of Negro Education 31, No. 4; “Northern Intellectual Reaction to Military Rule During the Civil War,” The Historian 37, No. 3; and “A Biographical Sketch of Harriet Tubman,” The Dictionary of American Negro Biography. Two of her books included: Africa and the Afro-American Experience (Howard University Press, 1977) and Africa and the Afro-American Experience: Eight Essays (Second Series of Historical Publications, Howard University Press, 1981).

Other scholarly pursuits included: member, Board of Education Advisors, The New York Times; Consultant for a Biographical Series, Black Americans Today for Public Schools, The New York Times; Historian, Council of Administrative Women in Education, District of Columbia Branch; Consultant, Afro-American Instructional TV Series, The Maryland State Board of Education; Panelist, “Research and Publication Techniques.” The Consortium on Research Training (Representatives of 15 colleges attended this conference that was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare); Member, Executive Committee of the Friends of the Leopold Senghor Foundation; Member, Board of Visitors of Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base; Consultant, National Institutes of Health; Member, Editorial Board, The Journal of Religious Thought; Consultant, National Endowment for the Humanities; Member, Board of Directors, Institute for Services to Education; Member, Executive Advisory Council of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.

Always answering the call to serve, she was active with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority for over fifty years and the only member of the Sorority elected National President (Grand Basileus) twice. Under her leadership, she led this organization of professional women to greater involvement in community training programs, support of education and civil rights.

As a community activist, she was a volunteer for the Washington Urban League; National Historian, National Council of Negro Women; Board of Directors, District of Columbia Lung Association; Board of Directors, The National Women’s Democratic Club; Vice President, Black Women’s Agenda; Board of Directors, American Council on Human Rights; the NAACP, and Board of Governors, The Arts Club of Washington.

Dr. Williams also lectured on U.S. race relations at the U.S. Department of State to the Greater Washington Council of Organizations serving International Visitors, and on the objectives of general education for the Voice of America (USIA).


Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, Negro History Bulletin (Jan-March, 1997)

Lorraine Williams Photo ©2007 Courtesy of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives