I want to rap about the latest National Rifle Association’s disingenuous stroke of rhetorical jiu-jitsu brilliance, as exhibited by their spokesperson Dana Loesch, but I think it’s a good idea to share a prerequisite piece about the late Monroe, North Carolina NAACP branch president, Robert F. Williams.
Besides, today is Williams’ birthday.
I’m not surprised if some of you never heard of him. I sometimes wonder if the NAACP struck Williams’ name from their halls and archives. (Lsughing) Okay, not completely …
Felicia R. Lee wrote a 2006 piece in the New York Times where the headline called Williams “Outspoken and Feared but Largely Forgotten.”
Williams — whose childhood and young adult phases of his life were shaped by the Great Migration, a refugee operation to evade the domestic White terrorism of the southern United States; subsequent immersion in northern violence through the infamous Labor Riots; segregation in the US Marine Corps as a World War II draftee — moved to Monroe, North Carolina and became branch President of the NAACP in a town where the number of Ku Klux Klan members nearly outnumbered residents.
Williams concluded that the Black citizens of Monroe needed to find equal justice and protection through the barrel of a gun after witnessing repeated white-on-black assaults. He formed a group of defenders called the Black Guard and provided its members small arms and martial arts training.
He respectively became the most hated and popular Monroe citizen after meeting Klansmen motorcades through Black communities with a crew of armed defenders on sidewalks ready to regulate at the first sign of violence, and launching a globally-recognized campaign to free a couple of boys aged 8 and 10 whose “crime” was being kissed by a White girl..
Williams also elevated his star appeal in Monroe by repelling an attack by the Klan.
But he arguably began to elevate his status to “Most Dangerous Man in America after this response to the acquittal of a White man, despite witnesses, in the attempted rape of a Black woman:
If the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution cannot be enforced in this social jungle called Dixie, it is time that Negroes must defend themselves, even if it is necessary to resort to violence … there is no need to take the White attackers to the courts because they will be freed, and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed and it is time for negro men to stand up and be men — and if it is necessary for us to die then we will die, and if it is necessary for us to kill, then we will kill.
From an NAACP branch president … !
Naturally, the NAACP home office wanted to suspend Williams for 6 months.
In his book Negroes with Guns, Williams described a 1961 incident that erupted after his organization’s peaceful attempt to integrate a local swimming pool was met by gunfire:
Somebody in the crowd fired a pistol and the people again started to scream hysterically, “Kill the niggers! Kill the niggers! Pour gasoline on the niggers!” The mob started to throw stones on top of my car. So I opened the door of the car and I put one foot on the ground and stood up in the door holding an Italian carbine.
Williams then discussed the behavior of the police officers that day, who followed Williams and his social justice activists much of the time and yet did nothing to protect them from the lynch mob:
One ran straight to me, grabbed me on the shoulder, and said “Surrender your weapon! Surrender your weapon!”
I struck him in the face and knocked him back away from the car and put my carbine in his face, and I told him we were not going to surrender to a mob. I told him that we didn’t intend to be lynched.
The other officers weren’t much help:
The other policeman who
had run around the side of the car started to draw his revolver out of the holster. He was hoping to shoot me in the back.
There goes that.
They didn’t know that we had more than one gun. One of the students (who was seventeen years old) put a .45 in the policeman’s face and told him that if he pulled out his pistol he would kill him. The policeman started putting his gun back into the holster and backing away from the car, and he fell into the ditch.
The response to Williams’ clear visual message reflected an elucidation of the worst fears any hateful and deadly mob:
There was a very old man, an old white man out in the crowd, and he started screaming and crying like a baby, and he kept crying, and he said, “God damn, God damn, what is this God damn country coming to that the niggers have got guns, the niggers are armed and the police can’t even arrest them!” He kept crying and somebody led him away through the crowd.
Williams also made the FBI’s Most wanted list, thanks to imaginative kidnapping charges. Williams fled the country to Cuba, along with his wife and two children.
The NRA is quick to mention that they helped Williams establish a rifle club in Monroe. Does that surprise you?
More tomorrow …
song currently stuck in my head: “be free” – moonchild