Robert F. Williams

Below is an interesting piece. A speech by Robert F. Williams in China.

Fore those not familiar with Robert F. Williams: he was best known for his advocacy of armed self-defense by blacks in Monroe, North Carolina, USA, where as leader of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) he had obtained a charter for the group from the National Rifle Association and urged members to arm themselves. In 1957 the Monroe NAACP and its supporters drove off a Ku Klux Klan motorcade at gun-point thus preventing an attack on chapter president Albert Perry. In 1961 after an effort was launched to integrate the community swimming pool (the city council said it couldn't afford to let blacks use it as it would have to drain and refill it each time before letting whites use it again!) Klansmen from surrounding counties descended on Monroe and targeted Williams. In the course of this situation Williams had drawn his weapon on police officer and a racist mob and thus saved his life, and later he saved the lives of a known Klansman and his wife. After he fled Monroe before the mob could get him, Williams was accused of kidnapping the couple and inciting violence. He was put on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list. Williams then left for Canada, but after the RCMP started looking for him, he secretly re-entered the US and crossed into Mexico, making his way to Cuba. Years later he returned to the US and became a community activist in Philadelphia (I think), where he died in the early 1990s.

Williams' struggle was documented in a couple of books:

"Negroes with Guns." Written in exile by R. F. Williams, 1962, Marzani & Munsell, New York.

"People with Strength" by Truman Nelson, n.d., published by Marzani & Munsell, NY, on behalf of the Committee to Aid the Monroe Defendants.

Juan Fajardo

To complete the biography: Part of the deal under which Robert Williams returned to the United States required him to testify before Senator James Eastland's Internal Security Committee, in which he answered all questions, named names, and entered into the record his correspondence with Jim Forman regarding Jim's efforts on behalf of Williams and Mae Mallory. Williams also withdrew from public political life, specifically spurning the office of President of the Republic of New Africa, which had been conferred on him while he was in exile. North Carolina dropped its attempt to extradited Williams to Monroe for prosecution, and he was allowed to live without further political molestation in Michigan. Even after all those intervening years, his SISC testimony was devastating to those he named.

Personal footnote: Before Williams fled the country, the secret police regarded his as among the most dangerous political leaders in the country, and thus his every move was watched; his every word recorded. When the National Lawyers Guild successfully sued the Michigan State Police red squad, I received notice that a file had been opened about me. As I wrote away for it, I expected to read about my activities as a member of the Facing Reality organization (C.L.R. James followers) in Detroit, distributor of Inner City Voice, participant in the Motor City Labor League, and friend of Dinky Romilly and Jim Forman. The cops had barely noticed those. They had stolen Robert Williams's address book, and opened a file on each person named in it, which included me.

Ken Lawrence