Author

Samantha Willis

Samantha Willis

A freelance journalist with experience in broadcast, digital and print media, Samantha Willis’ award-winning writing has appeared in Richmond magazine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Style Weekly and Glamour Magazine, among other publications. She is a Hanover County native who lives in Ashland with her husband and sons. Contact her at [email protected]

‘Part of the destiny of this country’: Church site excavation aims to unearth African American contributions  

By: - October 1, 2020

In Colonial Williamsburg, experts are unearthing the foundations of First Baptist Church, among the oldest African American congregations in the country, as part of an attempt to uncover a more complete narrative of early American history, centering the Black people — enslaved and free — who contributed much to the fledgling nation. First Baptist Church, […]

Breastfeeding in Virginia: New law provides protections for nursing mothers but disparities remain

By: - August 27, 2020

Both a biological process and a powerful bonding experience, mothers and infants have practiced breastfeeding since the birth of humanity. Yet, here in Virginia, breastfeeding in all public spaces became legally protected just  five years ago. Now, as the state observes August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month, health care workers, community advocates and state legislators are working together […]

COMMENTARY

Treat the cause, not the symptoms

By: - July 17, 2020

Renaming schools and removing monuments is only the beginning; real change can come only by dismantling Virginia’s systems of racial inequity This week, Hanover County School Board voted to rename Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle school, joining a slew of school systems across the state choosing to remove from their campuses longstanding symbols […]

COMMENTARY

As other Virginia school systems act, one is still clinging to its racist Confederate names

By: - July 8, 2020

On Monday, Gov. Northam sent a letter to school board leaders statewide, asking them to rename schools that still bear the names of Confederates, of which there are 14.  The next day, a statue of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart was plucked from its pedestal on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, leaving Lee as the lone Lost Cause icon […]

Pregnancy during a pandemic: birth workers, mothers navigate COVID-19

By: - July 1, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt practically every sector of society, life literally goes on. There were 22,965 births in Virginia between March 1 and Monday. And the United Nations estimates 116 million babies will be born globally before the pandemic ends. The uncertain nature of COVID-19 has challenged doulas and other birth workers […]

COMMENTARY

Hanover swiftly rushed to the defense of guns; not so quickly for residents shaken by a racist rally

By: - December 23, 2019

More than 100 localities across the commonwealth have passed symbolic “sanctuary city” amendments, measures that have no legislative teeth, but reiterate citizens’ rights to own and bear guns. Stafford County is among the latest local governments in Virginia to adopt the stance, bracing for gun control laws promised by the incoming Democrat-controlled state legislature. On […]

COMMENTARY

This is Hanover (but it doesn’t have to be)

By: - July 8, 2019

Hanover County is my home. At least seven generations of my family were born and raised here; freedmen founded our community’s church 151 years ago. I was horrified and disgusted to witness the tail end of a small Ku Klux Klan gathering 10 minutes from my house on Saturday. Horrified and disgusted, but not surprised. […]

Rx for success: Historic Virginia pharmaceutical association relaunches

By: - April 29, 2019

If necessity is the mother of invention, she certainly had a hand in the formation of the Old Dominion Pharmaceutical Association more than 70 years ago. A group of black Virginia pharmacists — barred from joining the state’s longstanding professional pharmacist association due to segregation — united their visions and resources to create the association, […]

Birthing while black: African-American women face disproportionate risks during pregnancy

By: - March 5, 2019

In Virginia, black women are three times more likely to suffer a pregnancy-related death than white women, reflecting a national pattern of racial disparities in maternal health outcomes. Each year in America, more than 700 women die during or soon after pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live […]

COMMENTARY

Vestiges of old Virginia

By: - February 13, 2019

Virginia’s political scandals reflect a troubled history and intersect racism, gender and sexual violence — issues some of us navigate daily. Journalist and professor Melissa Harris-Perry tweeted Friday night that “observers are wringing hands over the ‘racist v rapist’ dilemma facing [Virginia],” a reference to the troubling trifecta of scandals embroiling Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax […]

Bills seek state maintenance money for more historic African-American cemeteries 

By: - January 22, 2019

As the 2019 session of Virginia’s General Assembly ramps into full gear, state lawmakers are considering a handful of bills that would add at least 10 historic African-American cemeteries to the roster of black burial grounds eligible to receive maintenance funds from the state. The new bills follow legislation passed in 2017 and expanded in 2018, which […]

Growing forward: Facing historic and modern challenges, Virginia’s black farmers look to bolster ranks and grow their communities

By: - December 4, 2018

Agriculture is the largest private industry in Virginia, making a $70 billion economic impact annually, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are more than 44,000 farmers in the commonwealth and the top crops include soybeans, corn and tobacco. Of those Virginia farmers, 1,865 are African American — about 4 percent. In 1920, census […]