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The Monroe NAACP

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

The Formation of Williams’s Militancy

Robert Williams’ first stint in the military did a small amount of good in his life by allowing him to take his first creative writing course. Now that he was discharged, he qualified for the GI Bill and other Veterans Administration Programs. He would return to North Carolina a man with a plan, to become educated and work as a writer.

This plan was interrupted by Williams’ first foray into armed self-defense. In 1946, Bernie Montgomery killed a white man in a dispute about payment for car repairs. He was convicted and sentenced to death. The local KKK planned to raid the funeral home that held Montgomery’s body to desecrate it in public. The black veterans of Monroe banded together and created a battle plan to defend the funeral home. When the KKK came, they were met with rifle fire and forced to retreat.

Fighting was not the only activity that Robert Williams found upon his return to Monroe. He met and married a local woman named Mabel Ola Robinson. Mabel will be crucial in the success of Robert Williams in the battle to come.

After two years of marriage, Williams decides he can best provide for his family by moving back to Detroit and working at Cadillac Motor Company. He also rejoins Local 600 UAW. Never giving up on his dream to be a writer, he got published in a 1949 issue of the Detroit Daily Worker. The piece was a fictional rendition of his own life. Working at a Cadillac plant provided enough stability for Mabel to finish high school.

As in many of Williams’s previous jobs, he butted heads with management. He was fired in February of 1949 for excessive absenteeism and threatening to beat up his boss. Never deterred, he enrolled in West Virginia State University, because they had one of the best courses in creative writing. Once he had another child, he felt it best to move back to North Carolina to get aid from his family while using the GI Bill.

The North Carolina College for Negros in Durham was the first stop in attempting to be educated back home. However, within the same year, he transferred to his Grandfather’s alma mater John C Smith College in Charlotte. His time at John C Smith was well used. Many newspapers published him including the Socialists Workers Party newspaper and Freedom edited by Paul Robeson. Unfortunately, the GI Bill ran out before Robert Williams completed school.

On the bright side, Williams was already a trained machinist with many years of experience. He moved to Woodbridge, NJ, to work in an aircraft factory while living in Harlem. This stint in Harlem was not the same as the first. This time he became associates with many communists and socialists. Never actually joining any organizations because he did not believe in many aspects of communist dogma. The first point of contention was communist opposition to religion. Another flaw in communist philosophy was the idea that Black and White workers would unite. Williams had been around white workers all his life. None ever wanted to unite with him.

The interaction with communists increased the FBI’s surveillance. Williams moved home to be with his family. He could only find menial work. So in 1954, Williams decided to go the Los Angeles to find factory work. The FBI informed potential employers he is a security risk, making landing interviews impossible. Angry and dejected Williams joined the Marine core to avoid homelessness.

Williams took the aptitude test and was told he could work in the communications division. It appeared his dream of becoming a professional writer was coming true. He breezed through basic training and felt he was finally being treated as an American. Then the reality of race hit him in the face. The Marines made him a supply sergeant. When Williams protested, the Marines told him no blacks were in the communications division.

This slight did not go without protest. Williams wrote many government officials, including the President, whom he told he wanted to renounce his American citizenship. As punishment, the Marines stationed him in Nevada at a location that tested soldiers’ ability at sub-zero temperatures. Williams continued to protest, resulting in a dishonorable discharge in 1955 after 16 months.

His stint in the military and civilian workforce hardened Williams militancy. At every turn, his hard work was repaid with slaps in the face due to race. When people live in a society that will not allow them to realize their potential, they inevitably become subversive.

For the rest of the series click HERE

Robert Williams Early Life

Robert Williams was born on February 26, 1925, to John and Ellen Williams in Monroe, North Carolina. The town had around 6,100 people one-third of which were black. The town had a very rigid racial barrier and strong Ku Klux Klan presence. Robert would be shaped by his experiences there in Monroe and grow to challenge the racial order.

Robert’s future militancy was deeply rooted in the struggles of his family. His paternal grandfather Sikes Williams born in 1856, learned to read and write while still a slave. After Emancipation, he went to school at the Biddle Institute in Charlotte. The school was later renamed John C Smith University. Sikes Williams was active in forming the Republican Party of North Carolina, traveling all over the state. To inform locals of the new party, Sikes and Darling Thomas published a newspaper called The People’s Voice. Sikes’s activism caused many conflicts in his town. These conflicts led Sikes to arm himself and his wife. Sikes’s wife gives Robert Williams Sikes’s rifle after he passes.

Sikes’s son John did not carry on the political tradition but kept weapons handy for home defense. John provided a stable environment for Robert to mature into manhood. However, Robert always found ways to make political statements. As a youth, Robert gathered a group of other young boys to patrol their neighborhood. When Whites came to look for prostitutes, the boys would pelt the car with rocks and run into the woods. The young boys took protecting their neighborhood as a personal responsibility even in childhood.

Delivering newspapers was Robert Williams’s first job, and as a result, he became the un-official newscaster for Black Monroe. Many of Monroe’s Black residents could not read, and Robert would relay news stories to them. Impromptu newsman was a pivotal role in the early 1940s because the country was moving closer to World War II.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the government created many jobs programs to get the entire workforce to join the war effort. Robert Williams joined a jobs program called the National Youth Administration (NYA)at 16 years old. The jobs program was Williams’ first foray into Civil Disobedience.

The NYA was integrated. The Monroe chapter was to learn stone masonry. Even though the Blacks expected to be treated equally, they were only allowed to dig stone, while Whites learned masonry. The last straw was when the Black workers were forced to drink from dirty coca-cola bottles in a separate water bucket. Williams staged a walkout. The program sent the Blacks to Rocky Mount to learn to make machine tools to resolve the labor dispute.

The FBI began Williams’ subject file as a result of this action. For the rest of Williams’ life, he will be under FBI surveillance. For the rest of Williams’s career, he would be plagued by FBI agents telling employers and potential employers he was a security risk.

Once Williams becomes a certified machinist, he decided to move to Detroit to work for the Automobile plants. He landed a job at Ford’s River Rouge Plant and joined the Local 600 United Autoworkers Union. The job at Ford did not only provide income and expand Williams’s social circle. It also provided an exemption from the draft because he was a defense worker. That was the first place Williams found socialists and socialism. That same year a severe race riot broke out in Detroit. Robert thinks it best to leave Detroit for a place much more calm.

He went to San Francisco to work at the docks in 1943. Blacks could not join the machinist union in California. He eventually found work as a civilian in the Navy’s Mare Island Naval Yard at Port Chicago, California. There was even more racial tension on the small Naval base, and Williams returns home to Monroe after three months.

Monroe of 1944 was rife with racial conflict. Soldiers at the nearby military facility would often fight. Many of the Black soldiers would even fight the police. Robert’s parents thought it would be best for him to leave North Carolina to avoid racial conflict. Later that year, Robert moved to Harlem, NY. After working at the docks three months, the US Army drafted him.

The Army drafted Williams for the last 18 months of World War 2. His stint began a month after the Hiroshima bombing. Racial politics in the army were no different than the rest of America. As a result, Williams had a tumultuous time. He failed to obey orders, disrespect officers and was AWOL on several occasions. His service ended “for the convenience of the government” on November 27, 1946.

In Robert Williams’s first 21 years, he had become a machinist, striker, and soldier. Most people are lucky to have their first drink at that age. He began to build a network of socialist that will be vital to his escape from Monroe later in life. Also, the FBI surveillance that would haunt him began.

For the rest of the series clickHERE

Robert Williams Sources

Internet Sources

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/negroeswithguns/rob.html
https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/robert-f-williams
http://www.ibiblio.org/Southern_Exposure/RFW.html
https://www.jeremiahjenne.com/the-archives/2018/3/10/an-african-american-activist-in-the-court-of-mao-the-life-of-robert-f-williams
https://solidarity-us.org/atc/66/p2283/
https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2013/08/27/robert-williams-and-civil-rights-protests-in-monroe
https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isr/vol22/no04/monroe.htm
https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/07/arts/television/outspoken-and-feared-but-largely-forgotten.html
https://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/19/us/robert-f-williams-71-civil-rights-leader-and-revolutionary.html
https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/williams-robert-f-1925-1996/
Documentary: Negros With Guns on PBS Independent Lens produced by California Newsreel found on platform Vimeo
Negros with Guns by P. Cowan 3-16-1963 In the Harvard Crimson http://www.thecrimson.com
In Memory of Robert Williams: A Voice of Armed Self-Defense and Black Liberation 11-17-1996 http://www.rwor.org

Books

People With Strength The Story of Monroe, N.C. by Truman Nelson

Radio Free Dixie Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power by Timothy B. Tyson 1999

Negros with Guns by Robert F Williams (1962)

Robert Williams Series

Robert F Williams Summary

Robert Williams Early Life

The Formation of Williams’s Militancy

The Monroe NAACP

The Kissing Case

The 1961 Pool Protest

NAACP Stands Against Militancy

The International Robert Williams

The Freedom Riders go to Monroe

The Stegalls and Robert Williams Flight from Monroe

Williams in Exile and Back Home

Robert F. William Philosophy

Commentary on Robert Williams

Robert Williams “Father of Black Militancy”

Robert Williams Sources

Dalit Dastak Interview 1

Why Dalits Asked For and Needed Reservation

Mr. Mohandas Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress in 1919. He then conducted a four-pronged campaign for Indian independence from 1920 to 1942. The first pillar was non-cooperation to make government rule useless. Those Indians who did not go along with non-cooperation had to suffer social boycott. Members of Congress would not buy or fraternize with Indians not involved with the freedom struggle. There would be Civil Disobedience or protests to show the multitudes of people unsatisfied with His Majesty’s Rule to further the cause of freedom. The final weapon was the fast, welded by Mr. Gandhi himself. The fear of public backlash from the death of someone as revered as Mr. Gandhi was enough to push legislation through.

The freedom campaign was mostly taken up by Hindus. Muslims played a small role for a short time. Dalits, Indians without Caste, played little to no part. They knew if India did become independent upper castemen would control government with the lower caste serving as policemen. With a power structure of nothing but castemen, how would Dalits secure their rights? Dalits wanted safeguard for political representation and government employment guaranteed in the constitution.

The relationship between Dalits and the British began with the invasion of the East India Company. The company enlisted Dalits in the state of Maharashtra to take power away from the Hindus and install the first British stronghold. The resulting victory of the Dalits showed that divine fate did not determine their station. They can unify and overthrow their oppressors.

Dalits began to see themselves as a separate political and social entity. Hindus never questioned Dalits being a separate entity until political power was to be split between various factions in India. Now Congress is emphatic that Dalits are part of Hinduism, but in what way.

Ambedkar dissects the question of various levels. The first is in the territorial sense of those that occupy the area colloquially referred to as Hindustan. At that level, one could say Dalits are Hindus. However, at that level, Muslims and Sikhs could be considered Hindus. Both groups received accommodations for political representation in the constitution.

The next level one could answer the question is social. Do Dalits and Hindus interact enough on a social level to be considered one people? The answer is emphatical, no! Untouchability, by its very definition, precludes even contact. No reason to also ask about intermarriage, dining, or occupations. In no arena are Dalits socializing with Hindus.

The last level is as members of the religion of Hinduism. First, one must ask what Hinduism is. Ambedkar explains there is no unifying moral code or system of practice. What is commonly referred to as Hinduism is various cults with a similar origin. Many Dalits were members of these cults even though there were strong movements of conversion to Buddhism and Islam.

Even if Dalits occupy a cult of Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, or Shiva, they do not observe untouchability. There is also not enough interaction with mainstream Hindu cults to consider both cults brothers. Even if Dalits occupy the same cult as a Hindu, it would not mean they are in the same community. Indian Christians, Europeans, and Anglo-Indians hold the same religion, but they are not unified in a singular community.

Now that Dalits have established themselves as a separate community, why not grant Dalits constitution safeguards? Allowing the safeguards would build the trust and sense of brotherhood that Congress said was necessary. Indian independence would never stand without this sense of fellow feeling. What Dalits are asking for in political representation and government work is very reasonable. The alternative would be to ask for an independent country like many of the Muslims and Sikhs. If Congress does not want to grant Dalit accommodations, one must wonder if they ever intended to treat Dalits equally.

The adversity faced by Dalits is much more significant than just untouchability. They are fighting to overturn the belief built up over thousands of years. Because Dalits did not cause the belief in inferiority as ordained by a divine fate, no amount of self-improvement on the part of Dalits will rectify it. The Hindus must end discrimination. The question remains do Hindus as a collective understand the atrocities they have inflicted on Dalits and do they care to act to remedy the situation.

Growing Down Podcast 2020

Integral Stage Podcast 2020

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