Samantha Willis is an independent journalist and writer with a decade of print, digital, and broadcast media experience. Her work has appeared in publications including Glamour Magazine, Essence Magazine, HuffPost Life, Scalawag Magazine, and the Columbia Journalism Review, and within a wide range of Virginia-based media including WRIC ABC 8News, NBC 12 News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginia Mercury, and VPM (Virginia's Home for Public Media).
Willis' writing has earned multiple awards. Most recently, in April 2020, Willis earned a Virginia Press Association first place award for specialty arts writing, for her feature story on a University of Richmond photo exhibition in which city residents shared their lived experiences during the Civl Rights Era. In April 2019, her feature article about Brook Field Park, where Arthur Ashe first discovered and honed his love for tennis, helped Richmond Magazine win the Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service from the Virginia Press Association; it is the highest award the organization bestows. Willis has presented her work at conferences of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), World Information Architecture Day, and the University of Michigan's School of Environment & Sustainability.
Willis' writing consistently centers African American history, culture and perspectives. Her reporting explores contemporary issues of interest to Black Americans – like maternal health disparities which disproportionately impact Black mothers, and environmental justice campaigns responding to large-scale petrochemical pollution in majority-Black communities in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley." Samantha elevates the historical significance of Virginia's Black-built communities including Jackson Ward in Richmond, Ziontown in Henrico County, and Vinegar Hill in Charlottesville. She has interviewed a plethora of African American history-makers: groundbreaking NASA engineer Dr. Christine Darden and "Hidden Figures" author Margot Shetterly; legendary pianist Herbie Hancock; visual artist Howardena Pindell; Freedom Rider and wife of the late Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker Theresa Walker; and civil rights activist Esther Cooper Jackson, among others.
In 2016, while working full time as arts editor at Richmond Magazine, Samantha co-created the Unmasking Series, a multi-day, anti-racism dialogue and workshop program. The series began in Richmond after a blackface scandal rocked the city (#UnmaskingRVA) and continued in Charlottesville (#UnmaskingCville) in June 2018, nearly a year after white supremacist groups brought deadly violence to the city. In partnership with Virginia Humanities and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, Willis developed and presented an Unmasking program in the south Hampton Roads region in October and November 2019.
A graduate of Hanover County Public Schools, Willis studied English and Creative Writing at Radford University. She is a member of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, and a member of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Community Advisory Board. Willis lives in central Virginia with her husband Jamaal and three sons.