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.


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. […]

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 […]


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 […]

‘God knows what’s right, and hopefully you do, too:’ Opponents urge air board to reject permit for pipeline compressor station

By: - November 9, 2018

Dozens of detractors and supporters had their say Thursday about a natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy plans to build in Buckingham County as part of its controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, as the State Air Pollution Control Board met to review a proposed permit for the facility. If the board approves the permit on […]

State board will decide permit for Buckingham compressor station, focus of Virginia’s biggest environmental justice debate

By: - November 8, 2018

Ella Rose doesn’t expect to see much of a familiar “friend” if and when the compressor station comes to her corner of Buckingham County. “I sit here in my living room, and I watch the deer and the turkeys and the wildlife walk through my backyard almost every day,” said Rose, 74, a native of […]

‘It’s not right:’ Cumberland residents say planned landfill will disturb historic school, possible burial grounds

By: - September 26, 2018

CUMBERLAND — Just inside the front door of the 100-year-old Pine Grove School in Cumberland County’s small Cartersville community, the soft wood underfoot groans and gives under Muriel Branch’s steps.  “I walked three and a half miles to get here, each way, each day,” says Branch, sweeping her gaze around the one-room schoolhouse where she […]