Preston N. Williams

Preston N. Williams

Houghton Professor of Theology and Contemporary Change Emeritus
Preston N. Williams


  • AB, Washington and Jefferson College
  • MA, Washington and Jefferson
  • BD, Johnson C. Smith University
  • STM, Yale University Divinity School
  • PhD, Harvard University


Preston Williams, who retired in June 2002, became the Houghton Professor in 1971. He has taught previously at four historically black colleges: Johnson C. Smith University, Knoxville College, North Carolina College for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University), and Lincoln University. He has served as associate chaplain at Pennsylvania State University and Protestant chaplain at Brandeis University. Prior to coming to Harvard Divinity School, he was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor at Boston University School of Theology.

In his years at Harvard, he has served in various capacities beyond his professorial role: He was Acting Dean of the Divinity School in 1974–75, and the acting and first director of Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute from 1975 to 1977. He was president of the American Academy of Religion, 1975–76, and president of the Society for Christian Ethics, 1974–75. From 1998 to 2008 he was the director of the Summer Leadership Institute, a program that brought religious leaders from urban settings to Harvard for two weeks of intensive classes on community development. His fields of interest are Christian ethics, social and economic justice, human rights, and African American experience. He is an ordained Presbyterian USA minister.


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