Skip to main content

Alexia Williams

Profile picture for Alexia Williams

Contact Information

707 S. Mathews
M/C 176
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Hours

Spring 2024: Tuesdays from 2-4pm & by appointment.
Co-Director of Graduate Studies
Assistant Professor


Alexia Williams is an Assistant Professor of Religion and African American Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she also serves as Co-director of Graduate Studies in Religion. She specializes in Afro-American religious history, Roman Catholicism, Afro-diasporic religions in hemispheric context, and American secularism. Her research and teaching explore how religious communities operate as sites of racial identity formation, political organizing, and aesthetic production for Black Americans.

Her ongoing book project, titled Black Revolutionary Saints: Roman Catholicism & the U.S. Racial Imagination, examines Catholic lay efforts to canonize an African American saint within the Roman Catholic tradition. While the Vatican has yet to officially recognize a saint of African American descent, the veneration of these holy figures has become a key component of advocacy for racial justice in Catholic communities and institutions. Dr. Williams contextualizes the political discourses and aesthetic production inspired by these potential saints within the landscape of 20th and 21st century American social movements and public life.

Dr. Williams holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies from Yale University and a B.A. in English and Spanish from Spelman College. Before joining the University of Illinois, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. Her research has been generously supported by the UNCF Mellon Mays Program, the Ford Foundation, and the Louisville Institute.

Research Interests

American Religious History

Afro-diasporic Religions & Cultures

Roman Catholicism

Race Formations & the Secular

Religion & Popular Culture



Ph.D., Yale University 

B.A., Spelman College

Courses Taught

AFRO199/REL298: Becoming Malcolm & Martin

REL235: American Religious History

REL 335: Religion in Contemporary America

REL 439: Catholicism in the United States

REL 494: Religion & Popular Music

AFRO498: African American Religious History


Additional Campus Affiliations

Department of African American Studies

Department of Gender & Women's Studies