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Desert in Dark


Mary D Williams has traveled to hundreds of colleges and universities, several hundred public
schools, hundreds of churches, libraries, and several Civic Education Consortium trainings, and
Programs for the Humanities & Human Values for public school teachers’ institutes, several of
them week-long training sessions for teachers. Performances for the United States Congress,
lecture/performances for Civil Rights symposiums in Montpelier, France, concerts in the North
Carolina State Capital as well as concerts for men and women that are incarcerated in the State
and County penitentiaries, benefit performances for Cancer patients, domestic violence and
homeless victims.

Along with colleague Dr. Timothy B. Tyson teach a college course, “The South in Black and
White: History, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century South.” Mary is a public educator, with a
BA in American Studies with a double minor, History and African American Diaspora from the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mary completed her graduate studies with a MA in
Folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Mary continues
to study North Carolina history facilitating graduate seminars at Duke and has been doing
scholarly explorations of the history and theory of gospel music with Professor Jerma Jackson at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her knowledge of the music and the culture from which it emerged is not merely layman’s
learning and experiential understanding, but is rooted in serious scholarly work. Mary constantly
shares what she has learned with the public. It is her primary goal not to just perform the best
traditions of North Carolina, but to dissect their subtleties in an accessible manner for a wide
listening and learning audience.

Professor Craig Werner, musicologist and chair of Afro-American Studies at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, offers “a glimpse into a world where the ideals of democracy and
Christianity are something more than empty words.”

Mary has performed and provided her voice to the soundtrack for the Hollywood movie, directed
by North Carolina’s own Jeb Stuart,” Blood Done Sign My Name,” (February 2010). As well as
the television movie “The Wronged Man” a lifetime movie premiering, November, 2009. Mary
will star with Mike Wiley, an African-American genius playwright and actor, in his play “Blood
Done Sign My Name,” which opened at Shafer Theatre at Duke on November, 2009. In
addition, a concert featuring Mary, The North Carolina State Capitol for the 150th year of the 13th
Amendment. February 2016 Song and Narrative of the Black South, The North Carolina State
Capitol. Recently, Mary was featured on Dick Gordon’s show, “The Story,” on National Public

Radio, a program which called upon mind, memory and singing voice: “When you listen to Mary
D. Williams, “Professor Werner continues, “you’re hearing the voice of a great singer, but you’re
also hearing the voices of the elders and the ancestors.” Mary has received many prestigious
honors and awards and is currently working on her first children’s book, Gonna Move On Up A
Little Higher.

Dr. Timothy B. Tyson author, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke
University, Adjunct Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill states, “Though her voice is uniquely her own, her music and her message emerge from a
chorus, born in the bondage of slavery, that still speaks to our struggles against what Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., called the “thingification” of human beings. Her power as a singer and
educator comes from the heart and her scholarship, from her commitment to humanity and her
belief in the God who drowned Pharaoh’s army and still seeks to let His people go, and from her
faith in the blood that has signed all our names.”

"Mary has truly developed into a public educator, studying North Carolina history and culture through the lens of black gospel."

Image by Oscar Keys

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