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Ron Radosh

Robert F. Williams: A Flawed African-American Leader

April 19th, 2012 - 4:55 pm

Who was Robert F. Williams, whom Ann Coulter treats in her recent column as a civil rights hero?  That is true, but unfortunately, it’s only half the story. The main point of Coulter’s column is well-taken—liberals, not to mention most people in America, have little knowledge of what first led to gun control laws. Coulter writes:

Gun control laws were originally promulgated by Democrats to keep guns out of the hands of blacks. This allowed the Democratic policy of slavery to proceed with fewer bumps and, after the Civil War, allowed the Democratic Ku Klux Klan to menace and murder black Americans with little resistance.
(Contrary to what illiterates believe, the KKK was an outgrowth of the Democratic Party, with overlapping membership rolls. The Klan was to the Democrats what the American Civil Liberties Union is today: Not every Democrat is an ACLU’er, but every ACLU’er is a Democrat. Same with the Klan.)

At the end of the Civil War, as most leftist historians know very well, Democratic legislatures enacted the so-called “Black Codes,” which forbade blacks basic civil rights and led to the end of Radical Reconstruction that enabled civil rights for the former slaves. Blacks were also forbidden to own guns, the only recourse they might have had against the newly formed racist Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized black communities throughout the former slave South.

Skipping to the more recent past in the segregated South of the 1950s and 1960s, Coulter turns to the riveting story of an NRA member, a black activist named Robert F. Williams, who first told his story in 1962 in a book he titled Negroes with Guns.  (The full story of his life and impact can be found in the book by historian Timothy B. Tyson, Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power.)

Coulter writes how Williams, head of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP, got a charter from the NRA and decided to fight head on growing racist activity from a new post-war KKK that beat, lynched, and murdered blacks at will, especially those who belonged to a civil rights group like the then mainstream NAACP. His organization armed itself and built what Williams called the Black Armed Guard, which, as Coulter writes, “stood sentry and repelled the larger, cowardly force.” Their resistance to Klan violence put an end to the vigilante racist whites immediately. As Coulter comments: “The NRA’s proud history of fighting the Klan has been airbrushed out of the record by those who were complicit with the KKK, Jim Crow and racial terror, to wit: The Democrats.”

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