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Michael J. Murphy

automobile worker and activist, was born General Gordon Baker Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, one of five children of General Gordon Baker Sr., an automobile worker, and Clara Baker, a housewife. Baker attended Southwestern High School in Detroit and went on to take classes at Highland Park Community College and Wayne State University. In the early 1960s he took a job with Ford Motor Company and continued to work in the automobile industry for almost forty years. In 1941 Baker s father had moved his family to Detroit from Georgia in search of a job in the booming war production industries taking part in the massive migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North during the first half of the twentieth century Becoming an autoworker allowed Baker Sr to dramatically improve his family s standard of living especially in comparison to his prospects ...

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James Thomas Jones

civil rights activist. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, Williams was reared in a racially charged Jim Crow environment that made racial matters omnipresent for local blacks. Toward solidifying such realities in young Robert, his grandparents, former slaves themselves, rehashed stories regarding the cruelty of the slave system and the whites who facilitated it. Naturally such teachings had a profound effect upon young Robert, who decided as a teenager that collective political agitation was critical to African Americans’ survival.

Similar to other southern blacks, Robert and his family sought freedom and opportunity in the North and migrated to Detroit. The teenage Williams quickly discovered that racial tensions undergirding the North equaled those of his southern roots. The Detroit riot of 1943 destroyed any illusions he may have had about the North A dozen years later following his discharge from the U S Marines Williams returned to Monroe North Carolina where ...

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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 ...

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Timothy B. Tyson

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 ...