Dr. Yohuru Williams sitting in a theater

Racial Justice Initiative

In keeping with our Catholic mission to uphold the dignity of every human person and to advance the common good, St. Thomas launched the Racial Justice Initiative in June 2020 to help drive meaningful reform and change.

The initiative is led by Founding Director Dr. Yohuru Williams, distinguished university chair and professor of history, and focuses on supporting racial justice education, facilitating research, exploring ƹƵ partnerships, and encouraging dialogue and critical conversations.

Creating the Racial Justice Initiative

The civil unrest in Spring 2020 in the United States has laid bare the stark reality of systemic racism. Across the country, people are signaling a new urgency to confronting the racial inequality that exists in our communities.

The Racial Justice Initiative will work collaboratively with individuals and organizations already engaged in the essential work of helping to reimagine a future for the Twin Cities free from racial disparities. The work of the initiative will be shared widely and aspires to be a model for how other communities begin these efforts.

screenshot from the video showing yohuru williams speaking

About the Racial Justice Initiative

Hear Dr. Williams share his vision for the St. Thomas Racial Justice Initiative and the process of historical recovery.

Dr. Yohuru Williams speaking on a panel at Guthrie Theater

Racial Justice Masterclass

For corporations that want to continue the historical recovery journey, the Racial Justice Masterclass is a unique program to help organizations advance their work in diversity, equity and inclusion and move toward racial justice. The masterclass will include three educational and inspiring events that will propel you to think differently and make a greater impact in our ƹƵ.

Register for MasterClass

Mission Statement

Designed to inspire change through the lens of historical recovery, the Racial Justice Initiative works collaboratively with individuals and organizations to create knowledge of the racial history of the United States. The initiative champions partnership as fundamental to sustaining the pursuit of lasting change. It seeks to empower young voices and be a leader of Black history in the Twin Cities and beyond.

10-Year Vision

Our 10-year vision is centered on four interrelated goals:

  1. To create new pathways for student engagement (through scholarships, internships, and sponsored programming) on issues of racial justice and equity.
  2. To develop, promote and support scholarships related to racial injustice that impacts and supports the work of ƹƵ organizations involved in the same work.
  3. To establish St. Thomas as one of the premiere spaces for conversations around racial justice both locally and nationally.
  4. To inspire systemic change consistent with the mission of the university and its catholic identity through scholarship and corporate and ƹƵ engagement that focuses on eradicating racial injustice.

Historical Recovery as a Pathway to Justice

For racial justice to truly take hold, we must first understand the historical roots of the injustices that have contributed to the present moment. Historical recovery works to illuminate the underpinnings of racism and offer insight into new interventions aimed at dismantling harmful systems. The Racial Justice Initiative is centered on the process of historical recovery as a foundational step to making change and eradicating barriers.

Dr. Yohuru Williams walking down stairs
Students posing at St. Thomas

Funding Priorities

A variety of funding opportunities are available for individuals and organizations who want to advance the mission of the Racial Justice Initiative. Funding can help support an endowed chair for racial justice at St. Thomas, student research and ƹƵ engagement opportunities, faculty research, as well as the "Overpoliced and Under-Protected" research and documentary project. 

Dr. Yohuru Williams headshot

"With the moment in front of us now, there is a tremendous opportunity to see the Twin Cities as a laboratory for change. Here in Minnesota, if we can think creatively, engage broadly, and partner with humility concerning the work we must all do together, we can make a big impact.”

Dr. Yohuru Williams


"Thank you, Dr. Yohuru Williams, for your amazing gift of teaching historical and contemporary black history to our Delta Dental of MN team members! Your presentations are bar none and we are excited for the continued partnership and learning journey!"

– Kathie Eiland-Madison, Chief Engagement and Inclusion Officer, Delta Dental

"Watch any high-end historical documentary and you’ll see Dr. Williams of the ƹƵ as he is THE go-to voice on American history. I was blessed to first connect with Dr. Williams in 2019 and remain in awe of him and his work.

"Yohuru is a phenomenal speaker with the ability to simultaneously educate and uplift. Yohuru leads with love and compassion. Yohuru, THANK YOU, for your strength, patience, and for leading the way in our ƹƵ. I deeply admire your critical thinking process and am thankful for your friendship."

– Cory Hepola, Vice President of Communications, Growth, and Strategy at The Brookshire Co., TV anchor, host, and documentarian

Contact Us

Please contact us to learn more about how to get involved with the Racial Justice Initiative including sponsorships and customized engagements:

MA in Diversity Leadership

St. Thomas now offers a Master of Arts in Diversity Leadership. This interdisciplinary program grounds leadership training in culture and inclusion in a way that no other program does. For leaders seeking to effectively implement DEI strategies in their organizations and communities, the MA in Diversity Leadership provides a flexible two-year degree that will build on your enthusiasm and vision for diversity and racial justice.