|"Negroes with Guns"
by Robert F. Williams
Robert F. Williams,
Tremendo Luchador, 1925 - 1996
Robert F. Williams died October 15th, 1996. His funeral was attended by Rosa Parks and many others. He was among the most important and influential figures in the tradition of African American armed self defense. An ex-Marine and leader of the NAACP chapter in Monroe, North Carolina, he was expelled by the NAACP for his views in 1959. He led a fight by African Americans in the late 50s and early 60s to defend themselves, with guns when necessary, from Ku Klux Klan violence. He wrote a book about these experiences, Negroes with Guns. The work, which has been reprinted by Wayne State University Press, was originally published in 1962 by Marzani & Munsell of New York.
Robert Williams also championed the Cuban Revolution. He saved lives in a 1959 race riot and took on the defense of two youths (aged 7 and 9) accused of "assaulting and molesting a white female." Williams was then falsely accused of kidnapping charges and fled into exile in Cuba and China from 1961 to 1969.
In Cuba, he ran Radio Free Dixie (now the title of a fine book covering this period), which broadcast across the Southern US until he experienced some difficulties with the Soviets in Cuba as well as the American Communist Party. However, he had good ties with Che Guevara and some of the Cuban revolutionaries and even explained to a very interested Che the machinations of the American CP and how they tended to marginalize the African American community. He elected to leave for China. In China, he was at the seat of power, at Mao's side during many historic events.
In 1969 he returned to the U.S. and has remained active in the Peoples Association for Human Rights and in New Afrika while writing his autobiography. He was the first president of the Republic of New Afrika. His perspective was unique, framed by his extensive experiences abroad.
Williams was framed by the US intelligence services through an article in the New York Times which sought to portray him as being against the Cuban Revolution. To this day a segment of the ever paranoid Cuban government (Well, who can blame them!) looks upon him with suspicion but they should know that to his death he wanted to return to Cuba and visit his old comrades, of this we have personal knowledge.
"An important study of a forgotten Civil Rights leader. . . . [A] groundbreaking, skillfully written revisionist monograph (the first full-length study of Williams ever published)."
Historians have customarily portrayed the civil rights movement as a nonviolent call on America's conscience--and the subsequent rise of Black Power as a violent repudiation of the civil rights dream. But RADIO FREE DIXIE reveals that both movements grew out of the same soil, confronted the same predicaments, and reflected the same quest for African American freedom. As Robert Williams's story demonstrates, independent black political action, black cultural pride, and armed self-reliance operated in the South in tension and in tandem with legal efforts and nonviolent protest.
From the Publisher
RADIO FREE DIXIE redefines the civil rights movement and Black Power through exhaustive research in archives all over the country as well as FBI files and interview sources that no other scholar has used. This book restores the forgotten family traditions of resistance and pride that help African Americans find meaning in the past and hope in the future.
From the Inside Flap
"Timothy Tyson has written a compelling story that needed to be told and now needs to be read by all who care about race, courage, and humanity. Robert Williams was an inspiration to many and a threat to others; Tyson gives him his proper due."--Julian Bond
"A monumental book. It is impossible to conceive of the postwar black freedom struggle without Robert Williams. And yet, most histories barely mention the man. Timothy Tyson's profound biography rewrites the history of the African American struggle for democracy, unearthing its most militant streams and revealing its deep relationship to revolutions around the world."--Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University
"A spellbinding narrative that analyzes the making of black manhood in an era that bridged Jim Crow and civil rights. Through the life of Robert Williams, Tyson provides a stunning reappraisal of non-violence as a civil rights strategy, putting gender and class at its center. . . . And he gives us a hero. Robert Williams is a giant abroad in the land of Jesse Helms."--Glenda E. Gilmore, Yale University
"A valuable and needed addition to the literature of the modern African American
freedom struggle. . . . Tyson has ably and vividly supplied the missing chapters of
Williams's remarkable odyssey as an agitator in the South and fugitive rebel in the Third
World."--Clayborne Carson, director, Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project
About the Author
|First published in 1962, Negroes with Guns is the story of a southern
black community's struggle to arm itself in self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan and
other racist groups. Frustrated and angered by violence condoned or abetted by the local
authorities against blacks, the small community of Monroe, North Carolina, brought the
issue of armed self-defense to the forefront of the civil rights movement. Under the
leadership of Robert F. Williams (1925-1996), Monroe became the test case of the right of
blacks to armed self-defense when law and order broke down. The single most important
intellectual influence on Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, Negroes
with Guns is a classic story of a man who risked his life for democracy and freedom.
"Simply perfect and simply impossible. And that's just the title of this newly reissued little book, a work possibly more important now than when first published." - Metro Times
"History will record the courage, commitment, devotion, sincerity and love of Robert Williams for his people." - Minister Louis Farrakhan
"...Mr. Williams made outstanding contributions to the just cause of the
American Black people and mutual understanding between Chinese and American peoples. His
dedication to the building the bridge of friendship...won high respect from Chinese
leaders and Chinese people. He will live forever in the memory of Chinese people." -
Qi Huaiyuan, President, Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign
|Robert F. Williams Tribute Committee
Negroes With Guns
The Robert F. Williams Tribute Committee goal is the reprinting of Brother Rob's Negroes With Guns Book. We need your help to make this goal a success. When you pledge or give $15.00, you will receive a copy of Negroes With Guns, once it is reprinted. We will take more if you so desire. Please make checks payable to:
Robert Williams Tribute Committee.
Send pledges and donations to:
Robert William's Tribute Committee
[NOTE: THIS IS NO LONGER NEEDED, is maintained for historical purposes]
Thank you for your help and understanding.
Date:______________ Pledge Amount:________
|A TRIBUTE TO ROBERT F. WILLIAMS
Nov. 1, 1966
The Tribute Commitee consists of General Baker, Jr.; Grace Lee Boggs; Mike Hamlin; Charles Simmons; John Williams.
Check this site out, it will be up soon and is to have some great photos and additional
Some postings at the time of Williams' death
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Nov. 21, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper
ROBERT WILLIAMS 1925-1995:
"A COUPLE OF YEARS AHEAD OF HIS TIME"--MALCOLM X
By Stephen Millies
"In thirty minutes you'll be hanging in the courthouse square." So spoke A. A. Mauney, the Monroe, N.C., police chief, to Robert F. Williams on Aug. 27, 1961. Williams--the president of the local NAACP chapter--wasn't lynched that day. He was hounded into exile by the FBI.
Robert F. Williams died Oct. 15 in Grand Rapids, Mich., at age 71. His story is a remarkable chapter in the history of Black liberation. Monroe, N.C.--Williams' birthplace-- was in 1925 like hundreds of other Southern communities. Black people lived under lynch law. "Whites Only" signs littered the town, including its library and swimming pool.
The local white aristocracy--including the Helms family--ran the town. Old Man Helms was sheriff of Union County, whose seat is Monroe. His son Jesse became the Ku Klux Klan senator from North Carolina. Helms and the other local racist ruling families kept Monroe "safe" for Duke Power and the tobacco companies that really ran North Carolina. And for the Southern Railroad--now the Norfolk Southern--controlled by the J.P. Morgan banking house in New York.
Keeping Monroe "safe" meant keeping Black people down and keeping unions out. North Carolina still ranks lowest among the states in the percentage of unionized workers.
In 1955 the NAACP chapter in Monroe had dwindled down to six members. Williams, who had worked as a machinist in New Jersey and did a hitch in the Marines, took over its leadership. He started a membership drive among workers and the unemployed.
On too many Saturday nights, KKKers would drive through the Black community, shooting it up. Many of these Klansmen came from South Carolina, whose border was only 14 miles away.
When North Carolina Gov. Luther Hodges did nothing to stop the attacks, Williams and the local NAACP chapter formed a National Rifle Association chapter and trained its members in using firearms.
In the summer of 1957 a Klan motorcade attacked the home of NAACP member Dr. Albert E. Perry. An armed defense squad drove them off. Klan night riding came to a sudden stop in Monroe. This famous incident--which electrified so many Black people--was completely suppressed in the big-business media. Only Black publications such as Jet Magazine, the Afro-American and the Norfolk Journal and Guide reported the event.
In October 1958, two Black boys aged 7 and 9 were arrested for rape in Monroe after a 7-year-old white girl kissed one of them on the cheek. These two children--who could have been given the death penalty--were sentenced to 14 years in the reformatory. Only after Williams fought on and protests occurred throughout Europe did the state release the two.
The national NAACP suspended Williams for six months, but the Monroe NAACP chapter became famous for its militancy and for advocating self-defense against racist attacks. To spread his views, Williams started a newspaper called the Crusader.
North Carolina authorities were determined to get rid of Williams. They offered him bribes. When that didn't work, they tried to kill him. On June 23, 1961, Bynum Griffin, the owner of a local car dealership, tried to run Williams off the road. On Aug. 27, 1961, a full-scale assault was launched upon Monroe's Black community. The racists assaulted and jailed "Freedom Riders" -- demonstrators who had come from the North to overturn segregation.
During this assault the Stegalls, a white couple known for their Klan sympathies, drove through the Black community. Only Williams' personal intervention prevented any violence against them. Yet this action then became the basis of a phony kidnapping charge that was used to hound Williams out of the country. This charge was also used to jail one of Williams' closest supporters, Mae Mallory.
Williams escaped the FBI dragnet and went to Cuba, where with the assistance of the Cuban revolutionary government he started the anti-racist "Radio Free Dixie." Later, Williams would live in China, where he urged Mao Zedong to issue his famous message of support to African Americans.
Deirdre Griswold, now editor of Workers World newspaper, went to Monroe in 1961 with the Monroe Defense Committee to assist the struggle there. Youth Against War and Fascism, Workers World Party's youth arm, distributed 10,000 copies of Mao's statement to the August 1963 freedom march.
WWP also printed and distributed Williams' "Listen Brother," an impassioned appeal to Black GI's not to shoot their Vietnamese brothers and sisters.
Huey P. Newton--the founder of the Black Panther Party--wrote how Williams' book "Negroes With Guns" influenced him. Malcolm X had this to say: "Robert Williams was just a couple years ahead of his time."
(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For subscription info send message to: email@example.com. Web: http://www.workers.org)
This piece omits an important period in Williams' life centering on New Afrika/NAIM/RNA. Does anyone have any information about this that they could summarize to complete this picture?
Also missing is a good description of the period in his life when he was
in Cuba running Radio Free Dixie.
"Since no one else mentioned his deep involvement in the NAIM, i felt it was my duty as a New Afrikan to do so, that's all. i love New Afrika too much, to let People call our *New Afrikan* freedom fighters American, even if they put the African in front- dig? That just pushed my self-determination button- smile....
He was, among other things, a New Afrikan. Yes, he was a freedom fighter, but the point i was making was that he spent a great deal of life and love working for New Afrika and that must be acknowledged by all truly self-determining People(s)."
"I knew him well, and was in the church just hours before the shootout took place with the RNA and the Pigs here in Detroit.."
Educator, media artist and media consultant, Aukram Burton, along with the Williams family, is currently producing a documentary about Robert F. Williams. Aukram started documenting Robert Williams in the mid 1970's and has a collection of photographs and video footage, some of which are represented on the Rober F. William Cyber Memorial website at: http://www.ramimages.com/rfwilliams
Any interested in this project should contact:
P.O. Box 17225
Louisville, KY 40217
with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 1997 AfroCubaWeb, S.A.