Award-Winning Alumna's Juneteenth Research Uncovers History

by Sara Rinaldi, Office of Development Communications

Loretta Green-Williams '97 MA '99 is a double Don and a proud recipient of the 2023 Fr. Privett Living the Mission Award.

The Fr. Privett Living the Mission Award recognizes alumni recipients who live USF’s mission through their career and volunteer work.

In each chapter of Green-Williams’s life, she has prioritized people and connection. Her most recent project revolves around historical research for Juneteenth — looking for communities that were not enslaved, and the growth that came out of those communities.

Past, Present, and Future Communities

In all of her endeavors, Green-Williams is determined to find and establish community.

Her current project focuses on her love of history and uncovers African American communities who were free in South Jersey during the 18th and 19th centuries.

“I received a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to research the African American communities in South Jersey for Juneteenth,” said Green-Williams. “Harriet Tubman came through South Jersey when she was moving people through the Underground Railroad. My theory is that the existence of non-enslaved African American communities existed during the 18th and 19th century enslavements. We thought all African Americans were enslaved, but there were some that were free, and I’ve found some proof of that.”

Green-Williams grew up in a little town outside Rutgers University herself, and never knew it was a Black settlement.

“We all have a story to tell and we should be able to tell it openly. The common thread is about honoring people.”

A Unique Start

Two people smiling
Loretta Green-Williams with USF President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J.

Green-Williams has a unique story. Born in Harlem, she was adopted due to her mother’s passing. When she was adopted, the strangest thing happened by coincidence — her new family included her biological father.

“My father was raised to honor people. We would wake up early and buy flowers and give them to seniors. We would deliver leftover groceries to those who needed it. My father taught me – I have a responsibility to honor people. Which is how my life and my work became about community.”

At USF, she created Sister Connection, a student organization for women of color to stay connected, which would one day inspire the genesis of Brother Connection. She became a founding member of the Bay Area Black Yoga Teachers Association, sat on the community board for the American Cancer Society, and now also sits on USF’s Alumni Board.

A Double Don For Life

When Green-Williams came to USF, she experienced a warmth of acceptance. She was a re-entry adult, the oldest person in the classroom at the age of 39, and was surprised by the welcome.

She remembers how USF was dedicated and committed to helping her graduate on time. Faculty ensured she was the best student that she could be, and when she graduated and walked across the stage for commencement, all of her professors stood up to applaud.

Green-Williams has said that without her USF education, she would not have known how to achieve the next steps in her life. When she was asked to join the Alumni Board of Directors, she knew it was important to give back and be actively engaged in the mission.

“I want to share the impact of what USF can provide to students," said Green-Williams. “I live on the East Coast, and we have a lot of higher education institutions where I live. I want to expose people to what USF has to offer.     

“USF is a part of my story, and it’s in me. I hope to share all the ways USF can make a difference in their lives in the same way it did mine.”


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