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Ron Radosh

Robert F. Williams: A Flawed African-American Leader

April 19th, 2012 - 4:55 pm

Williams preached the doctrine of “armed self-defense,” which was rejected by Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached instead the Gandhian doctrine of non-violence, which was adopted by the mainstream civil rights movement. (In fact, when Bayard Rustin first met King at his home, he found the minister sitting with a gun on his table. Rustin told him if he was to be a leader extolling Gandhi, he had to immediately get rid of it.)

The other half of the story of Robert F. Williams, however, is a difficult one for anyone who is conservative to bring up as an example. What Coulter leaves out of her story is that Williams was a far-left revolutionary of a Maoist bent.

Williams, who was facing arrest because the racist North Carolina government put out a warrant for his arrest for supposedly kidnapping a white couple — whom he and his group were actually protecting from a mob — fled to Cuba. With the permission and support of Fidel Castro, Williams broadcast regularly to the U.S. from Cuba, operating a station he named “Radio Free Dixie.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Williams urged American black soldiers to turn their guns on their commanders and engage in armed insurrection against the United States government. He said: “While you are armed, remember this is your only chance to be free. . . . This is your only chance to stop your people from being treated worse than dogs. We’ll take care of the front, Joe, but from the back, he’ll never know what hit him. You dig?”

In fact, Williams wrote his book while in Cuba, and its first edition was published by a far-left American publisher. His book served as an inspiration to the late Huey P. Newton who, after reading it, formed the original Black Panther Party in California, which took up the cry of armed resistance and formed itself into a Marxist-Leninist vanguard organization. Williams then joined what was called the Revolutionary Action Movement. In 1965 he traveled to Hanoi, where he called for armed revolution in the United States and praised Maoist China for developing an atomic weapon, which he dubbed “The Freedom Bomb.”

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