Anti-fascist: The NAACP leader who used the Second Amendment to fight the KKK

North Carolina’s Robert F. Williams used firepower to combat racial terrorism in the 1950s.

Florida is considering enacting “constitutional carry,” which would allow citizens to carry concealed handguns without a permit. 25 other states already do this. Yet Democratic Congressman Maxwell Frost calls this “fascism.” 

He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Dictionaries, definitions, and common sense aside, real-life fascists throughout history have relied on an unarmed populace to impose their repressive regimes.

Ask Robert F. Williams.

Williams was a black man born in 1925 who had seen the worst of Jim Crow. In the mid-50s he became the president of the local chapter of the NAACP in Monroe, North Carolina. 

The city of Monroe had a population of about 12,500 at the time. An estimated 7,500 of Monroe’s white residents were in the Ku Klux Klan.

Let’s talk about fascism.

The outnumbered black residents of Monroe had become accustomed to the white-robed, hooded fascists that terrorized their city. While heading his local NAACP chapter, World War II veteran Williams organized a militia unit he called the Black Armed Guard, in which black men and women were trained to use rifles and protected their neighborhood by stacking sandbags and stockpiling weapons. Williams even filed with the National Rifle Association to make his Guard a chartered club.

To fight fascists.

In 1957, Williams and his Armed Guard got word that the KKK was going to attack the house of the Monroe NAACP’s Vice President, Dr. Albert E. Perry, a doctor. Williams and his men fortified Perry’s house with sandbags. When the KKK showed up and opened fire on Perry’s home, the Armed Guard returned fire, driving the Klansmen away.

KKK members were the ones used to committing the violence. They didn’t expect the black community to fight back.

In his 1962 book, Negroes with Guns, Williams would write, “It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence.”

This sounds very much like the opposite of fascism.

Williams would end up falling out with the mainstream civil rights movement of the era because he advocated armed resistance as opposed to the non-violent approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Wrote biographer Timothy B. Tyson, “Williams’ advocacy of violence made him into an example at the 1959 NAACP convention. He had been removed from his post as Monroe NAACP president, and he listened at the convention as 40 speakers denounced him.” 

Tyson added, “He responded that he had called for self-defense, not acts of war: ‘We as men should stand up as men and protect our women and children. I am a man, and I will walk upright as a man should. I will not crawl.’”

In Negroes with Guns, Williams explained, “I just wasn’t going to let white men have that much authority over me.” 

He would add, “Tom Paine, Washington, Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all honorable men who are supposed to represent the true spirit of America. These noble men advocated violence as a vehicle of liberation.”

Like many of the civil rights era, Williams became a target of the FBI. He was eventually hounded out of the U.S. and took exile in Cuba and China, while also making common cause back home with many of the leftists and black nationalists who were impacting 1960s American politics. 

But his biographer made it clear that, “The NAACP leader from Monroe reached out to potential allies in all these camps while remaining committed to equal rights for all under the U.S. Constitution,” adding that Robert F. Williams “was neither a nationalist, a Marxist, nor a liberal.”

There is no cultural or political climate in the U.S. today comparable to the reign of terror many mid-20th century black Americans had to endure.

That generation understood what real fascism was. Some also knew how to fight back.

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunterhttp://LibertyTree.com
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for Rare.us.