Lessons in Black History – Robert F. Williams

Robert F. Williams—Of all the key players of the Civil Rights movement to make national headlines, few were as influential and now as forgotten as Robert F. Williams. Born in 1925, Williams was a political activist and community organizer who became actively involved with the NAACP in the 1950s. Williams soon became something of a controversial figure for advocating the use of guns as means of self-defense. Williams founded the Black Armed Guard with the express purpose of defending the black community against racist organizations like the KKK and corrupt cops. In 1957, a KKK group in North Carolina led an attack on the home of a black doctor that was rumored to be helping fund the local NAACP. Williams and the Black Armed Guard were waiting, and returned fire when the Klan attacked, driving the racists off. Williams’s willingness to meet violence with violence placed him at odds with many key Civil Rights leaders, and also earned him the attention of the FBI. When the FBI made a move to arrest Williams, he fled the country and went to Cuba, where Castro welcomed him and helped the militant activist establish a pirate radio station, Radio Free Dixie, which would broadcast to the states. While in Cuba, Williams wrote Negroes With Guns, which would have a profoundly influential impact on Huey P. Newton, who would go on to form the Black Panther Party. Williams left Cuba, relocated to China and eventually returned to America, where he was brought up on charges that were eventually dropped.

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