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Steven J. Niven

civil rights radical, broadcaster, and writer, was born in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina, the fourth of five children of John Williams, a railroad boiler washer, and Emma (Carter) Williams. In school Robert excelled at history, an interest encouraged by his grandmother, Ellen Williams, who passed on to the young boy tales of slavery and of the violent white supremacy campaigns of the 1890s. Ellen also passed on to Robert the rifle owned by his grandfather, Sikes Williams, who had been a prominent Republican Party activist and newspaper editor.

Even at an early age Robert understood the powerful sexual dynamics that shaped Southern race relations. One incident in particular from Robert's childhood haunted him. As an eleven-year-old he looked on in horror as Monroe's burly police chief, Jesse Helms Sr. the father of the U S senator dragged a black woman to ...