Honor Williams for his
For nearly three decades, Michael Paul Williams has been the journalistic equivalent of John the Baptist: a voice crying in the wilderness of institutional racism, economic injustice and the snail’s pace of change in his hometown, Richmond.
As the only African American news columnist in a media group not known for its enlightened stances in days gone by (see “Resistance, Massive”), it couldn’t have been easy for Williams to play this critical role at The Times-Dispatch. Nor could it have been easy to endure the poisonous phone calls and hateful emails I’m sure he’s gotten over the years and probably still receives.
Despite such massive resistance to his voice of reason, Williams has always maintained a quiet hope and steadfast belief in what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
A recent column, “No time for a victory,” was yet another example of his wit, wisdom and profound grasp of history. Williams provides a primer on the true origins of what many forget first was called Confederate Monument Avenue, noting how the first Robert E. Lee statue was protected by an “1890 deed giving state control of the statue.”
In concise, yet passionate language, he captures the deeply entrenched attitudes that linger like COVID-19 just below the surface of local and state history. “When it comes to Confederate propagandists, it’s hard to top the city of Richmond and the commonwealth of Virginia,” he writes. “It’s past time for both to get out of the hate crime business.”