NEGROES WITH GUNS: Rob Williams and Black Power

Radio Free Dixie



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Daly City, CA

I was surprised to see a documentary, with self defense and the right to arm yourself, as central themes on KQED. One can only hope there is more "diversity" of opinions presented in the future.

I'm also not surprised at the typical responses of people from the bay area. That react to the mere mention of guns as pure evil. A gun is an inanimate tool, only as good or evil as the person using it.

Self defense is a basic human right. Those that choose to give up this right, do so at their own peril. Do not drag the rest of society down with you.

Curtis Ford
Detroit Michigan

Negros with guns was the title of a pamphlet about Robert Williams' gun club in North Carolina. I read it when I was in highschool in 1969. The documentary is a continuation of the story. Like so many black people who took themselves seriously in that period of time, Williams was faced with systematic government suppression. I am glad that he was able to function in a productive manner in the world. As often happens with black people, he left America to be a free man. He is an example of personal courage.

Duane Dowdy
Harlem, New York

Wow!! He's another one of my personal presidents like Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. The masses can't learn about him because he represents the truth, which can compel change. However, white supremacy will always prevail unless there is a revision of history in the schools. Whites and blacks need to be properly educated about history to eliminate racism. The schools now help us maintain order to be programmed Americans. Our impact leaders are usually killed. No one wants to die because we are fearful, so there are no leaders. I believe that Rob F. Williams probably influenced Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. All the great strugglers for our people are magnificent, but just like flashes in a pan. America's system is fickle and deceptive. They maintain and refine white supremacy so well. We need a natural phenomenon.

Atlanta, GA

I was very fortunate to view the Wonderful Documentary: "Negroes With Guns" featuring Mr. & Mrs Rob Williams, at the King Center in Atlanta, courtesy of Image Film and Video, in 2005. To my surprise Mrs Williams was present and spoke/answered questions after the documentary. She was poised, gregarious, and very knowledgable as she interacted with the audience, even though some of the questions would have thrown the average person off base.

Twin Cities,MN

A modern day John Brown, I knew nothing much of Mr.Williams till reading his book and viewing this.

Sometimes a firearm is the only difference between a victim and a legend.

Dee Perkins
Bellflower, CA

Negroes with Guns was such an inspiring and moving documentary..I had never heard of Williams but I am glad I got a chance to view this documentary. Because of this man, I believe it helped the struggles for civil rights and racial injustices not just for the people of Monroe but for Black people everywhere...

martin chabolla

this is an artifact from the 60' much as race relations have declined after so much was gained...Negroes w/guns could be considered a punch line for today's comedians...for shock value why not make a docudrama called "Mexicans with Guns" or "Latinos with Guns/Knives"...recent events concerning Muslim cartoons and the Balkans show us that we must go beyond being "thin-skinned" and move forward to a multi-cultural society as much as the white supremacist/neo-black/muslim extremist/whatever i hated train of thought talking heads on cable-news would like to waste air on...

Brooklyn, NY

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Williams while I was a student at the University of Michigan in 1994. I read an article in the local paper about Mr. Williams and called his house to invite him to speak with undergraduate students in our dormitory. To my surprise, Mr. Williams agreed to come to our campus and he didn't ask for anything in return. He drove down from Baldwin, walked right into the room, and told us stories of the struggles that they faced against the terrorists of the Klan and law enforcement. We were all in awe of the strengthen and resolve of the people of Monroe and, to this day, I consider Mr. and Mrs. Williams to be two of the many forgotten freedom fighters who deserve to be honored and remembered as heroes of the human rights movement.

LP Hargrove
Atlanta, Ga

People that criticize Williams' stance are in a different time and differnt world than his. You have the luxury of sitting in your home without fearing reprisal, walking down the street without looking over your back, and sleeping at night without fear of someone setting fire to your home.Who among us would not defend our families, neighbors, and community against terrorists? Isn't this the underlying idea behind the US position on Iraq and terroroists? Terrorists, by definition, are not limited to people of other countries.

Philadelphia, PA

Although I am glad there is a film remembering Robert Williams, "Negroes with Guns" was some pretty sloppy history.

The film provides a disservice to the audience by confusing "Black Power" with "self defense." Manifestations of "Black Power" included entry into electoral politics, cultural nationalism, efforts by parents for community control of schools, as well as communities arming for self defense. By presenting "Black Power" as primarily a gun response, you feed into stereotypes about the 1960s freedom struggles.

The film also glosses over Robert Williams' work for the U.S. government in the 1970s, as if it were natural for a Black revolutionary to return from China and then accept a salary from the Nixon era US State Department.

Also, the attempt to make a direct link between the Black Panther Party and Williams, yet neglecting to mention the impact of Lownes County, is another example of the sloppy story telling.

ITVS and the PBS programmers need to consult with historians and participants in the history before they make their funding and programming decisions for historical projects. Because this history is often unknown and unexplored, it is more important to get it right.

FIlmmaker Sandra Dickson's response:

We chose the title, Negroes with Guns, because we wanted to make it clear to viewers that our focus was on this aspect of Rob Williams' philosophy not his other positions central to what would later be termed as "Black Power," for example, appreciation for Black culture and the need for economic progress. Because of time constraints, we also did not discuss Rob Williams' ties with the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) or the Republic of New Africa (RNA). Our film looks at a select but albeit important aspect of Williams' life and at a significant event and philosophy in the civil rights movement; the film does not provide a comprehensive look at all his relationships, activities and philosophies. Books will always be the better source for detailed and nuanced examinations of such matters. I highly recommend Tim Tyson's Radio Free Dixie for a discussion of some of the issues raised by the viewer.

Sandra Dickson, Co-director

Keith Vereen
Walkertown North Carolina

I saw the program about Robert F. Williams and I was angry. I thought I was well read on Black activism and the civil rights movement until I saw the program. I was angered that I grew up in Fayetteville not very far from Monroe and yet I never heard of this brave and brilliant Black man,revolutionary and thinker before now. I am at a loss as to why this man was not discussed in my high school history class in the mid 1980's. As Black people we have to look farther than the usual great Black Americans we celebrate in February and ensure that our entire culture and martyrs are celebrated daily. I plan to make sure that my children know who Robert F. Williams was before they turn 40 like myself.

celia abdullahi

I was up at 6am on Sunday morning when I was flipping through the televiion channels looking for somewthing interesting to watch. I am greatly pleased and excited to have been able to watch this film. As a blck woman I am proud to learn about Mr. Williams and part of his life. I will watch this with my children so that they may begin to understand the suffering this man had seen and the strength that this man to go against what was the norm. How he must have felt to be backed into a situation where he could no longer bear the injustices of the Monroe, N.C. and the USA.Thank you

Thomas Riley

Thank You again PBS for teaching me about somthing else I knew nothing about.
It was very informitive and insightful.
Keep up the EDUCATING!

Vancouver, Britsh Columbia

For me the PBS show was both educational and inspirational. While I have deep empathy and support for the King stratey, its value was enhance by the shock therapy advocated by Mr. Wiilians. The irony is that America required both emotions to even begin a small step towards equality. I supect that in a 1960's context, both King and Willians, would think that today progess was made but the reality sugests that we have a very long way to go to achieve racial and mutlicultural equality. I hope one day to secure that goal in the momery of both.

Cypress, CA

I believe Dickson et al. have done a disservice to the current view of the American population of the stature of the the alledged black struggle for "equal rights" today. Rob Williams advocated the use of "machine guns" according to his wife to get his way. He openly and proudly consorted with Fidel and Mao. He reminds me of Jane Fonda and her beliefs. It was completely inappropriate that he was allowed to return to this country and should have been buried not in the country he despised but in Cuba or China to which he offered allegiance. May his name be held in disdain forever.

San Jose, CA

I caught the program on Rob Williams the other night. Oh my gosh, this was not only a reminder of a shameful fairly-recent past in our country but actually an eye-openerfor me. I thought I knew just about everything and everyone concerning southern black activism of the 60's but I had missed this one. The story is compelling and real as well as just informative. Yes, of course, he deserves a place in history among many others more familiar. He spoke for many and they had a truth to tell. We should all know about that. Thanks!

sam jones jr
gallatin tn

i havent saw the documentary though i intend to yet i read a book by hewy p. newton title "revolutionary suicide" and i commend those brothers who were willing to take a stand and die then keep living on there knees. i was born in the mid 1960's and martin luther king jr was cool but with out brothers like rob williams,hewy p and for that matter nat turner to put the fear of god in a select few we might be still on the back of the bus.


Carmen Miller

I loved this fascinating look into the side of the civil rights movement that was not quite as civil as most would like to believe. The Black Power movement is just as American as the Revolutionary War. I realize that there were certain flaws in the philosophy (as with ALL others) but there has never in history been change without resistance to tyranny. The Jim Crow South was not a place for the weak. It was a place for the strong. The use or display of firepower (guns) was not a show of cowardice. It was rather the excercise of the rights that were promised and afforded to ALL citizens in the Constitution. When faced with the violent denial of every basic human right, he stood for valiantly and fiercey protecting them. His role in history, though twisted and distorted by the spin-masters and propagandists of his day (and yet still)...can never be forgotten by those who benefitted and were inspired by his works.

Ed Kale
La Pointe, WI

I was one of the twelve Freedom Riders who went to Monroe in 1961. Thank you for "Negroes with Guns." Robert Williams was a great leader and it is appropriate that he be recognized as such. So too, Mabel Williams - such a beautiful person and dedicated individual! I stayed in their home part of the time - rifles stacked in front of the fireplace. I was the FBI contact, asked to contact the FBI if it became necessary - it was and I did. We had no idea of the danger when we left Jackson, MS, after a massive civil rights rally, and went to Monroe. And yes, we went to the Methodist Church. As a theological student, I thought it was a good idea. And we were seated in the front row, but it was the front row of the balcony (!) where we could not be seen. I remember singing so loudly that the congregation turned around and saw us - black and white - and the contradictions left me in tears. The day before all hell broke loose in Monroe, I left for Turkey on a Yale internship, convinced by Jim Farmer (on our way back down to Jackson, MS, to appear in court) that I should go rather than staying. Now, many years later, just as we celebrated the 40th reunion of Freedom Riders in Jackson, MS, in 2001, I look forward to a reunion with Mabel and John Williams and maybe even giving the sermon in the Methodist Church!

Damon Fordham
Mt. Pleasant, SC

Rob Williams would freak out a lot of people today just as he did in the 1950s, and since I own a CD of Williams on "Radio Free Dxie," have taught about him in Black History classes, and own his book "Negroes With Guns," I'm glad his story is being told to the masses.

Does he deserve a place in history? Of course! Unlike the "microphone militants" and camera-chasing "leaders" of recent times, he practiced what he preached! Besides, he and the nonviolent civil rights movement actually complimented each other. MLK and his followers on one hand showed the world that we (African-Americans) were just as deserving of basic human rights as anyone, but Rob Williams and his followers alerted the world as to what would happen if these rights were not enforced.

michael evans

Thank you very much for making this very fine & informative documentary. I had heard of Williams from my dad back in the 60's & had kept up with as much of his exploits as was reported in the mainstream & radical press thru the latter part of that decade & the mid-70's. I even have one of his books. He definitely desrves a place amongst the great leaders of the movement. He put into practice what was rhetoric with so many others. I think he provided a very strong & uncompromising image for African-Americans ( which is probably why he is not more prominent in the history of those times). A true hero.

Edgar Johnson
Brunswick, Ga

I was captivated by the story of this strong man who would no longer tolerate the injustices put upon him by the oppressive south. As a child who grew up in Mississippi during these times, I have a great deal of respect and administration for Mr. Williams and others who stood up for a just cause for African American people. It was NECESSARY to demonstrate to the klan and other hate groups that we would not longer stand by and let them to continue to slaughter us like chickens. If Mr. Williams and others WERE NOT a factor, the government and others probably would have delayed in dealing with Dr. King's non-violent movement. Had it not been for this program, many of us would not be aware of the sacrifices so many have made for us as a people. GREAT JOB PBS, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK....

Honokaa, HI

Although I am a follower of Dr. Kings legacy and continue to follow the teachings of HH Dalai Lama, I feel Mr. Williams deserves a high position in American history for his bravery and consistant vigilance against abuse of power by government. People only followed their ignorant bigotry because it was not challenged by their leaders. The black person had no voice until they challenged this abuse of power with power, both physically as promulgated by Williams and spiritually as taught by Dr. King. As Williams said, if he had been treated as an equal and granted respectful treatment and then turned against the government, he would have been a traitor, but he wasn't and he isn't.

Robert Wilson

I had a chance to read the article in the New York Times today during my doctors appointment. I never knew about Robert Williams until I read the paper.

I found the article and the documentary very profound and very enlightening. It sheded another light on another part of the civil rights struggle that I never knew exsisted and probably would have never known about if I had not read the newspaper.

I feel this information does deserve a place in the annals of the civil rights history and should be taught as a part of african american history eveywhere. Just like myself, people in America do not know all of the history behind the civil rights struggle, good or bad. It all of it needs to be told.

Robert Williams and his wife used a by any means nessesary to get their message heard by a society that tried its best to oppress blacks in the south. And, on top of that, being charged for kidnapping a couple who was just trying to visit their grandmother and was unable to because of the climate of unrest in the area at that time was unfortunate. He really provided them safe haven until night so they could continue on their trip to grandmothers house so that they would not be harmed.

There are many leaders in the African American community but no one has really taken the bull by the horns and picked up where our past civil rights leaders of old have left off. We as Afro Americans need a prominent voice for us and for all those people who have been left behind because of a political system that has promised the American people so much for so long that now nobody knows who to trust or beleive anymore. The good leaders get caught in a whirlwind of trouble and the so call good leaders have agendas that do not satisfy the needs of the people they promise to serve with dignity.

carlos ostler
American Fork Utah

I believe that armed resistance was needed during the time Rob Williams lived.It does show the value of the right to bear arms.I also feel he should be recognized as a historical figure along side Rosa Parks,Malcolm X and other civl right figures.His fight was a reflection of the ugly side of American racism.He protected his family like any other person would.I cant imagine my child being arrested for kissing a white girl.That was the illogical racist stigma at that time.Rob Williams did what any card carrying member of the NRA would do.


Ironic that Rob Williams was considered a criminal by the government for fighting tyranny and injustice in the same way as our founding fathers.

Eric Williams
Houma , La

I'm glad to have watched some of the film on tv, and what I seen made me feel as a black man very proud to see and to get to know about Robert whom I really never heard of until I watched the film on tv. He was indeed one magnanimous, fealess, black who stood for his rights with whatever it took him to gain his identical rights alone with the whites. So with his movement should have helped the civil rights movement . I don't think he was transporting a gun to kill anybody ,but to show composure.

Stephen Dennison
Woodstock, Illinois

Rob William's willingness to use violence served as a reminder to some whites of what their resistance to change could lead to. It made some more amenable to the mainstream approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. Without the specter of potential violence raised by people like Williams and the Black Panthers, King's non-violent approach might not have succeeded as quickly as it did.

Eric Daniels
tampa florida

First Parliament- Funkadelic now Robert Williams on Independent Lens, I can't believe it Robert Williams a true giant of the Civil Rights movement and a proponet of self- defense.As someone who has read his story I was inspired that there was someone who didn't tow the line, there needed to be balance in the fight for Human Rights for Black Americans and Williams deserves his rightful place among our many great leaders. And frankly there are no great modern black leaders intellectually or politically because many of them are 'substitute teachers' more concerned with "racial harmony" (left wing) "Colorblindness" (Right wing) vague terms rather than true black empowerment. Outside of the grassroots folks who are doing wonders with very little support, we are stuck in a a morbid state of apathy raised by popular culture and it's heroes and villians.

Jason Masoud

I applaud Rob for taking action in the civil rights revolution, but I have one question that trully concerns me. I don't understand why he was working for relations between China and the U.S.A. He was for racial egalitarinism in the U.S.A., but China was clearly opposed to just that in Asia. After China invaded Tibet in the 1950's they burnt down Buddhist Temples and masacared thousands of inocent people that couldn't defend themselves. The Chinese then enslaved many of the Tibetans after the invasion, a practice still used by China today. Not only is slavery imoral, but it takes work from middle class Americans, while companies such as Wal-Mart profit from this exploitation. Why would a civil rights activist support such attrocities?

Maurice Philip
Hope Mills NC,

I enjoy the flim it was very eduicational.

new york

history is history.he,his mission / vision and fellows deserve a full spectrum of exposure.we need to know of more like him.

there is little provoking being done in any direction today. those who do challenge are pretty much excluded from mainstream involment and even so-called radical forums.

first of all williams'attitude is no different than that of Abolod Shigg, Aaron Bradley, and i am sure countless others who rose to challenge white backlash during reconstruction. the sad part is that somehow mainstream and so-called radical forums tend to downplay and/or disconnect the crucial continum of Black struggle and resistance beyond acceptable limits.

the limits are typically self-imposed given that unacceptable things usually get marginal funding.

Wytheville Va

I watched Negros with Guns and to my amazement I had never heard of Mr. Rob Williams. Surprising to me being that I was raised in Monroe. I believe Mr. Williams has earned his place of greatness in history simply because the man and his followers stood for what was and still is right. He got the attention of white racist and segregationist and if nothing else he made them re-think their hatred to the point of would they take the chance of letting their hatred for blacks jeopardize their mortal life. Its easy to intimidate a people that will lie down in fear. Mr. Williams understood that if he taught his people to stand up then change would indeed come. He was a part of the movement yes. Dr. Martin King, Malcolm X, Kennedy and others were all a part of the winds of change. While King Preached with the aroma of the lilacs of peace. Mr. Williams preached with the aroma of gun powder. Me, I think if I were white the gun powder would get my attention most. I understand now how and why nations like China even today still raise the matter of racial injustice in this country. Yet we as a nation claim to be the leaders in instrumenting justice and freedom to all man. A nation of christians. I wonder would we be if Jesus was a black. Thanks-You.

Kim L. Morgan
Wallace, SC

I just saw this program and I REALLY enjoyed it. At first I was concerned that it was going to be too violent a topic but I was pleasantly surprised to find out how well thr program was put together. GREAT JOB!!!!

This is history that happened here locally, not in Selma, or Birmingham. I say this with all due respect to the very important events that occurred there.......

Linda Bush Insley
Gastonia, NC

I live about 45 minutes from Monroe, but did not know much about Mr. Williams. Thank you for presenting this look at an individual who was not afraid to live his belief that all men are created equal. Certainly, he did shape the African-American struggle for civil rights and all of us should take a lesson from Mr. Williams' bold stand.

Thank you, PBS, for your tastefully and powerfully done presentation.

chesapeake, VA

America what a violent place. The bible toting "public". An eye for an eye. Isn't this the American way. The willingness to match force with force made our black communities no longer a safe haven for white violence.

Power to the people with guns.

Jim Surles
Cedar Park, TX

From what I have read you are to be commended on the content of the program and, from all indication, the production too. I feel that Rob Williams was an important leader of the Civil Rights Movement as he presented an opposing view to the peaceful demonstrations which were so publicized. Obviously, Mr. Williams' premise was such that he could not stay around to build the same kind of movement that became so popular with Martin Luther King's non-violent theme but who knows, had he been able to convince the public that the black community had dignity and the right to the same freedoms' that the white community enjoyed the movement might have progressed more rapidly and further than it did. But, I am inclined to believe Mr. Williams would simply have been judged as a bigot and racist (the white community is quick with such labels that we refuse to attach to ourselves)and eventually murdered without anyone listening to his philosophies. Certainly the leaders of today that capture the attention of the black community and move the white community are few and far between. I am afraid that the end result of both Williams' movement and that of the Black Panthers was to label themselves as "trouble-makers" without leaving any identifying footprints that can be effectively followed today. It is a shame because the philosophies that they espoused, had we listened more and condemned less, would likely have helped to emphasize more the blatant disregard for the rights that still exist today. I read only yesterday where a highschool in Alabama was still segregated as late as 2004!! There still is so much hate and prejudice in our America that, in hindsight, we can say that maybe Mr. Williams had the right idea all along? We simply do not listen to people enough to give them a chance to be understood.

San Francisco, CA

For more about Negroes with guns, see 'Gimme Shelter' regarding the Altamont incident.

A gun is not for self-defense or power.

It is a coward's killing tool.


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