Robert Williams returned from the Marine Corp to Monroe, NC, in 1955. He contacted an old friend who found him work as a security guard in a textile factory. Now that he secured a job to feed his family, he needed to find some way to help the larger black community.
The local NAACP was in dire straights. The members were harassed and even fired from their jobs. The conservatives of the time sold most of the Whites that communists ran the NAACP. The Southern states outlawed the organization in many areas. The persecution dropped participation to 6 people in 1953.
In 1947, Robert Williams was part of a defense of a funeral home. The Ku Klux Klan attacked the funeral home to steal a Black man’s body that killed a White man in a fight. Those that helped defend the body were among Williams first recruits.
Dr. Albert Perry was not in the 1947 defense force. However, he would prove to be an integral part of the Monroe NAACP. A former soldier like Williams, Perry became a doctor after serving in the military. He was currently working in a local hospital. Dr. Perry became the President of the chapter and essential to Williams political development.
The local pool hall became a rich environment for new members. Traditionally, NAACP members were the elite of black society. But, most of the Black elite in Monroe were unwilling to lose their job for joining the group. Many of the Blacks in the pool room didn’t even think they would be welcome in the NAACP ranks. Once they found out, they could join, they did. The membership swelled to 121 by 1959.
The need to be armed was more than apparent to Williams. He decided to also start a chapter of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Having an NRA charter would allow them to have a stockpile of weapons and legal rights to target practice. The first year Williams attracted 60 members.
The first major action of the Monroe NAACP was in response to the drowning of two black children in a lake in 1957. Black children had to swim in lakes and creeks because no Monroe pool allowed Blacks to swim. The NAACP first petitioned the government for a separate pool. They were told the town did not have enough money for a second pool. The NAACP then asked for the pool to be set aside one day a week for Blacks to swim. The council refused even one day a week because emptying and filling the pool was too costly. Williams replied that segregation is a luxury Monroe cannot afford.
The first protest consisted of 8 people that stood at the gate. Conservatives responded by circulating a petition to kick Dr. Perry and Robert Williams out of Monroe. KKK held rallies to muster support for the segregated pool. Both Robert Williams and Dr. Perry received anonymous death threats.
On October 5, 1957, the KKK assembled a motorcade to ride to Dr. Perry’s home. This KKK motorcade included two cop cars. They began wildly shooting at his house to intimidate him. Robert Williams was prepared and had the house barricaded. The members of the Monroe NAACP fired back at the Klansmen causing them to flee into the night. The city council banned KKK motorcades the next day.
Because the racists were not able to kill Dr. Perry, they decided to kill his reputation with trumped-up charges. Later that month, Dr. Perry was arrested for performing an abortion on a White woman. Abortions were illegal, no matter the race of a doctor or patient. Still, the headline in the newspaper read “criminal abortion on a white woman.” Dr. Perry admitted the woman had asked him to perform the abortion, but he refused. Also, the Dr. Perry was Catholic, so he did not believe in any form of birth control. Perry was jailed by Monroe police.
To free the President of the NAACP, Robert Williams led a mass demonstration at the courthouse. Many of the protesters came armed with firearms and knives. Dr. Perry was released when a white benefactor paid the $7,000 bond. Again the armed NAACP came to the rescue.
The trial for Dr. Perry came almost a year after his arrest. It was appealed, but on October 21, 1958, Dr. Perry was sentenced to five years in prison. He will be released in a little over a year. However, he would not regain his license to practice medicine. Dr. Perry lost his profession to further the cause of freedom.For the rest of the series click HERE