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date: 30 March 2020

Williams, Robert Franklin locked

1925–1996 Civil rights activist and prominent advocate of black self-defense and revolutionary nationalism.
  • Timothy B. Tyson

Extract

Robert Franklin Williams grew up in a tradition of resistance to white supremacy. His grandfather, born a slave, had been a Republican Party activist during Reconstruction after the Civil War, when former slaves sought to establish themselves as equal citizens but found their efforts dashed by white terrorists. His grandfather edited a newspaper called The People's Voice. His grandmother, who lived through these struggles, was a daily presence in his life as he grew to manhood. She told young Williams stories of the crusading editor's political exploits and gave him his grandfather's gun before she died.

World War II transformed Williams's life; he moved to Detroit to work in the defense industries, fought white mobs in the Detroit Riot of 1943 and marched for freedom in a segregated U S Army Military training instilled in us what a virtue it was to fight for democracy he said but ...

A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.

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