Samantha Willis

Samantha Willis

Samantha Willis, a writer and journalist whose experience in digital, print and broadcast media spans 12 years, is Commentary and Deputy Editor at the Virginia Mercury. Her work has appeared in leading publications including Glamour Magazine, Essence Magazine, Scalawag Magazine, and the Columbia Journalism Review, and within a wide range of Virginia-based media.


In Hanover, a name is more than a name

By: - March 20, 2023

It took years of community outcry, the urging of a governor, being sued by the NAACP and national media scrutiny for the Hanover County School Board to finally be shamed into voting to remove the names of Confederate treasonists from two schools’ monikers in 2020. Now, this same board is proposing that the one school […]


Given a chance to apologize for the theft of a Black man’s heart, House Republicans declined.

By: - February 21, 2023

In what can only be characterized as a stunningly callous decision, last week members of a Rules subcommittee of Virginia’s House of Delegates killed a resolution to acknowledge and apologize for the state-sanctioned medical misuse of Black bodies in Virginia, a common practice in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Four of the subcommittee’s five members […]


In righting wrongs, former state registrar helped create a more equitable, inclusive Virginia

By: - February 14, 2023

Janet Rainey, Virginia’s recently retired state registrar, has come a long way from the tobacco fields of Chase City, the small metropolis that is her hometown in Mecklenburg County. Her parents, God-fearing farmers James Sr. and Inez, encouraged Rainey and her five siblings to get educated, and get moving. “They encouraged us to leave home […]


Once a dead end, a Richmond cemetery earns new respect

By: - January 30, 2023

On Jan. 20, the federal government reopened historic review of the 123-mile Washington, DC to Richmond (DC2RVA) segment of the proposed Southeast High-Speed Rail project, which when complete will increase intercity passenger rail travel throughout the southeast region. Initially, the railway was planned to be built through one of the largest cemeteries for enslaved people […]


New monuments must mean more than memorialization

By: - January 16, 2023

Soon, statues of Barbara Johns and Henrietta Lacks – two Black, Virginia-born women who contributed to significant educational and scientific progress in America – will be erected, one in Roanoke and the other in the U.S. Capitol. These new figures emerge after the eviction of the Confederate warmongers memorialized in metal that used to tower […]

‘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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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. […]