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Sonja D. Williams

Sonja Williams (She, her)


  • Media, Journalism, Film & Communication
  • School of Communications


Throughout her professional career, Sonja Williams has served as an educator as well as an award-winning writer and producer of features and documentaries for National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), the Smithsonian Institution and radio stations nationwide. Also, she has worked as a journalist and media trainer in Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Currently she co-produces and edits BIO, a podcast series sponsored by the Biographers International Organization.

Williams’ book, Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom was published by University of Illinois Press in 2015. The audiobook version of this biography was published by Blackstone Publishing in 2018. Richard Durham was a pioneering African American writer and gifted broadcast dramatist who was posthumously inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007. 

For three consecutive years, Williams received one of the broadcast/cable industry’s most prestigious honors, the George Foster Peabody Award for Significant and Meritorious Achievement. She was so honored for her role as a writer/producer for the NPR/Smithsonian series Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, the NPR series Making the Music, and the PRI/Smithsonian series Black Radio: Telling It like It Was. In addition, Williams’ Howard University students received Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award recognition (nicknamed the “Poor People’s Pulitzer”) for their documentary special In Touch: AIDS in the African American Community.

Williams has received fellowship support for her work from the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Vivian G. Harsh Society, the National Association of Television Program Executives, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

More information about Professor Williams is available at:


Education & Expertise



Broadcast Management
Ohio University


Columbia College Chicago


Audio/Podcast Documentaries

2022                Co-Producer, Jazz Singers, 20th Anniversary Series Re-Release, PRX, Cambridge, MA

2021                Co-Producer, Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 25th Anniversary Series Re-Release, PRX, Cambridge, MA    

2020                Senior Producer/Editor, Kitchen Table Talks Podcast Series, Suffrage, Race, Power Political Action Initiative,  Washington, DC

2018-Present   Co-Producer/Editor, BIO Podcast, Biographers International Organization, Washington, DC

2016–2017      Executive Producer, From the Archives series, Sirius XM/WHUR Radio Network, Washington, DC                               

2009-2008       Co-Executive Producer, Uncrowned Queens: Voices of African American Women, 13-part radio series, WNED, Buffalo, NY

2004                Field Producer, Jazz Set, weekly series, NPR, Washington, DC

1999-2001       Associate Producer/Writer, Jazz Singers, 13-part radio series, Smithsonian Productions, Washington, DC

1997-2001       Producer, Jazz Profiles, weekly series, NPR, Washington, DC

1998-1999       Writing Team Member, It’s Your Business, 12-part PSA mini-series about domestic violence prevention, Family Violence Prevention Fund & The Advertising Council, San Franciso, CA

1998                Producer, Affirmative Action and Higher Education: An Aural History, NPR

1997                Producer, Routes Out of Poverty, WBEZ-FM, Chicago, IL

1994-1996       Associate Producer/Writer, Black Radio, Telling It Like It Was, 13-part series,Radio Smithsonian, Washington, DC

1994-1995       Associate Producer/Writer, Making The Music, 26-part series, NPR, Washington,  DC

1992-1994       Associate Producer/Writer, Wade In The Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, 26-part series, NPR & the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

1992                Producer, Alternatives: One Woman’s Fight Against AIDS, NPR, Washington, DC           

1991                Producer, On Sacred Ground, NPR, Washington, DC

1990-1992       Executive Producer, In Touch, student production series, WHUR-FM, Washington, DC




Mass Communications History and African American Culture


Black Metropolis Research Consortium Summer Short Term Research Fellowship, Affirmative Lives, Chicago, IL, 2017    

Timuel D. Black Short Term Fellowship in African American Studies, Vivian G. Harsh Society, Chicago, IL, Richard Durham: Destined for Freedom, 2009           

Howard University Faculty Research Program in the Social Sciences, Humanities & Education, Richard Durham: A Writing Life, Washington, DC, 2002-2003  

Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa Research Grant, Voices of Change: Communications and Resistance in Apartheid South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa, 2001-2002  

National Association of Television Program Executives, Fellowship, New Orleans, LA, January 1998. 

United States Department of Defense, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Faculty Summer Fellowship, Washington, DC, 1994 & 1995.

Howard University New Faculty Development Grant, Alternatives: One Woman’s Fight Against AIDS, Washington, DC/Nairobi, Kenya, 1991-1992



Select Awards & Honors

Ray A. Shepard Service Award, Biographers International Organization, 2021

Faculty Scholar Coach, Junior Faculty Writing and Creative Works Summer Academy, Howard University, 2018-2021      

Finalist, Wheatley Book Awards, Harlem NY,  2016

Uncrowned Queens: Voices of African American Women, 13-part series, WNED- Buffalo, American Women in Radio and Television "Gracie Allen" Award for Outstanding Documentary – Mid-Length Format  2009   

Jazz Singers, 13-part Smithsonian Productions radio series, Broadcast Education Association Faculty Production Award, 2002               

Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, 13-part series, Radio Smithsonian, 1996, George Foster Peabody Award for Significant & Meritorious AchievementAmerican Women in Radio and Television "Gracie Allen" Award for Black Radio: A Woman’s TouchAlfred I. duPont/Columbia University Silver Baton Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism

Making the Music, 26-part series, NPR, Washington, DC, George Foster Peabody Award for Significant & Meritorious Achievement, 1995.

Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, NPR/Smithsonian, 1994, George Foster Peabody Award for Significant & Meritorious AchievementNational Education Association Award for the Advancement of Learning Through Broadcasting; Corporation for Public Broadcasting “Gold” Award for Documentary Excellence; National Association of Black Journalists Award       

Related Articles

Select Journal and General Articles

Williams, Sonja. “Wade in the Water: The Making of a Groundbreaking Radio Documentary,” Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture, Vol. 1, Number 1, 2020.

Latta, Judi Moore and Sonja Williams, Wade in the Water: An Introduction, National Public Radio, June 20, 2019.

Williams, Sonja. “Destination Freedom: A Historic Radio Series About Black Life,” Journal of Radio and Audio Media, Vol. 23, Issue 2, October 26, 2016.

Williams, Sonja. “Remembering a Public TV Drama that Delved Into the Lives of Black Chicagoans,” Current, June 14, 2016.

Williams, Sonja. “The Transmission of Milestones,” Ohio Today, Ohio University Alumni Magazine, Fall 2015.