Cuba was a hotbed of controversy in the early 1960s. The nation was communists, so the American mainstream saw it as a sign of the USSR’s growing influence. American leftists saw it as a testing ground for the ideology they professed. Black America had a different perspective.
For years, any movement to further integration was considered Communist. For example, the NAACP was disparaged in many southern newspapers as Communist-inspired even though no one on the board was a communist.
Many Black people stopped viewing Communism negatively. They took the fact that Communism was lumped into the freedom struggle to mean both wanted to end the current Jim Crow system. Others ignored the label of Communist and judged the actions of an institution on its merit.
Once one understands why Black America had an opposing view on Communism, it is easy to understand why 1/3 of the founding members of Fair Play for Cuba were Black. Robert Williams was among such notable names as John Henrik Clarke and James Baldwin on his first trip to Cuba, which began on June 9, 1960.
Williams took a special interest because Black Press portrayed in Cuba as a haven of racial equality. Many Black Cubans participated in the revolution and had a high rank in the military. The Cuban Revolution could serve as a model for a future Black revolution. In addition to dethroning an oppressive and racist government, Cuba integrated schools and other public institutions. The idea of an integrated society had only existed in theory until now.
While in Cuba, an American reporter asked if Williams would give up his American citizenship. He replied he never had it. Anytime he wanted to advance in society, the government prevented it. When he needed protection, the government never came to his aid. Another reported asked how it felt to hear Cubans chant “Cuba Yes, Yankee No.” Williams asked the reporter how he felt seeing “Whites Only Signs” or how it felt to be in a work gang for leading a sit-in protest.
When the Fair Play for Cuba delegation left Robert Williams received a Cuban flag that he would later fly under the American flag at his own home. It was just the best of many Cuban souvenirs that would decorate his home. He returned to North Carolina to praise the greatest democracy on earth in his newspaper The Crusader.