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April 12, 1970 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-04-12
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p p IL

Robert Williams,
vanguard of- the
black revolution,
is back from
Red China






Robert Franklin Williams, the black na-
tionalist from Monroe, North Carolina, has re-
turned from exile in Communist China, Cuba,
North Vietnam and Tanzania where he became
the only American to talk with Mao Tse-tung,
Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh.
Living now in a quiet integrated neighbor-
hood of tidy bungalows on the northwest side
of Detroit, Williams has come a long way since.
the days in the late fifties and early sixties when
he created a national furor by organizing armed
black self-defense units to protect the black
neighborhoods in Monroe from the Ku Klux
Klan's shooting forays. That was during the
golden era of non-violence in civil rights, when
liberal whites thanked God for Martin Luther
King, and blacks sat-in at Woolworth's counters
for the right to buy a sandwich-and turned a
cheek as police and the local gentry clubbed them,
firehosed them, and beat them with chains.
Williams placed first priorities on self-sur-
vival, and declared that blacks should meet "vio-
lence with violence" and "lynching with lynch-
ing." H armed himself and his neighbors to prove
he meant it. That catapulted Williams to the
ideological leadership of the black revolutionary
movement, but soured his relationship with civil
rights groups forever.
During a racial disorder in 1961, The Monroe
police, who used their offices as a Klan re-
cruiting headquarters, trumped akidnap charge
against Williams and so he fled with his wife
Mabel and two sons to Cuba, where he began
a now world-famous eight years of exile which
came to a climax when Communist China hailed
him as a hero of the black revolution. Williams
popped into view in occasional stories in the
New York Times reporting his speeches in Pe-
king May Day parades, and the time he appeared
in Tanzania and announced his election as
president of the Republic of New Africa, a sep-
aratist black nation suposedly forming in five
southern American states.
At some point Williams decided he wanted
to return to America because he was lonesome
for it and wanted to fight for his rights to live
here. Last September he made a spectacular re-
entry at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, where
FBI agents had been waiting for weeks, and
now he is waiting out an appeal to block an ex-
tradition warrant that would pack him off to
Monroe to face trial for a crime almost no one
thinks he committed.
Meanwhile, Williams has been roaming
around Michigan college campuses and business-
men's luncheons, talking about China and read-
ing. He says he just wants to settle down and
catch up on what has happened to his country
since he left eight years ago. He's dropped from
active fighting, and seems a lot mellower than

his public reputation, much tamer than the hard-
line militancy of his writings. He wears Mao
suits from China, but he talks softly, so gently
that it is difficult to believe he is the man the
FBI feared so much. A Shooter's Bible lies con-
spicuously on his television table, but that's be-
cause hunting is his hobby. He talks about re-
volution, but stresses a revolution in men's at-
titudes and morals, more than cold revolution
of guns and power.
"I'm doing nothing in politics at all," says
Williams. "I want to give myself time to study
the situation here, to see exactly what is going
on, because I don't want to be active unless I
can be effective-and I don't think a person can
be effective unless he knows what he's doing, just
what the conditions are.
"I've been away for some time," Williams
adds softly, "and I find my concept of struggle
is different from most people here because my
experiences are different. .
Robert Williams was born 46 years ago in
Monroe, North Carolina, a small agricultural
town about 35 miles from Charlotte. After a
fling at West Virginia State College in Charles-
ton, and Johnson C. Smith college in Charlotte,
where he flunked out in his third year, Williams
moved to Detroit and worked as a machinist in
the Ford Motor Co. under the National Y o u t h
Administration. When he returned to Monroe,
Williams couldn't find any work because he had

most black people had the philosophy of turning
the other cheek," recalls Williams. "B 1 a c k
people were c~lbbed by police, they were beaten
with chains, young girls were molested. The fact
was I just thought it was a simple matter of
"I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps,
during the Korean War, where I had been taught
to fight. I didn't think it made much sense to
be taught to fight in a war for someone else and
then not even be able to protect yourself at
home," says William,
The real trouble started in 1961, when 17
young freedom riders on their way back from the
Jackson Bus Terminal sit-ins, stopped off in
Monroe to give Williams some help in local
protests. Forming a Monroe Non-Violent Action
Committee, they picketed the county c o u r t-
house and distributed leaflets protesting "1)
Unfair protection under law for Afro-Americans
and their property; 2) The policy of the tax-
supported Industrial development, which invites
industries to Union County and imposes discrim-
ination on labor practices; 3) Arbitrary and cruel
discrimination by the Welfare Department that
has deprived destitute Afro-Americans of relief;
4) Separate and unequal recreational facilities."
That was in 1961.
Local whites didn't appreciate Williams'
foresight of civil rights issues, and so about 1000
of them gathered one Sunday around the picket-

tion of rootless young people after the disturb-
ances on South University last summer.
A mayor's ad hoc committee found that "with-
out purpose and without direction large numbers
of Ann Arbor's youth gathered on South
University. The immediate result of this spon-
taneous action was the closing of South Univer-
sity and an evening of .. . merrymaking," which
the police dispersed with clubs and tear gas.
"Unmet needs of the young community
exist in Ann Arbor," concluded the report-
notably job opportunities, evening leisure activi-
ties, and places where the young can just sit
and talk.
Apart from the f a c t that kids are hang-
ing around the streets with no place to go, it
is difficult to define who they are. "These kids
have one thing and only one thing in common,"
says Councilman Robert Faber, who wrote the
South U. report. "General alienation." Dave
Bowman, coordinator of the Ozone House pro-
ject, says "It's strange. Nobody seems to know
these kids.
"The group transcends class lines-middle
class, poor, black, white. On the Diag and South
University you see people who look like freaks;
they have long hair and different clothes. I
would say about half of them are high school
and junior high school students.
"They're getting different values from what
their parents had," says Bowman. "Their par-
ents don't like the way they look, and especially
don't like five or six of them hanging around."
No one likes them hanging around. After the
South University incident, the kids crowded into
Mark's and PJ's, spending little money a n d
occupying space that might have been more pro-
fitably utilized by more affluent customers.
Every restaurant turned them away: the Vir-
ginian, PJ's, and finally even Mark's which, in
financial straits, needed the paying customers
who left when the kids came.
Swarms gravitated to Canterbury House
which, although it depends less on paying cus-
tomers, still could not absorb the influx of teen-
"They came in, 30 or 40 of them, to drink
Cokes and listen to records," recalls Rev. Craig
Hammond. "It's natural of course, but they made
so much noise that it was impossible for other
people to do anything else, sit quietly and talk,
for' example. You get tired of that after six
months," he says
The Congregational Church on William and
State tried opening as a stopgap center-R e v.
Ronald Phillips, the assistant pastor, wanted to
use the church as a youth center "to prove it
could be done without burning the place down."
But the church's heavy calendar meant the
center would not remain open for long.
Finally, Canterbury told the kids they had
to go. "It's obvious you have a crisis," Hammond
told them, "Why don't you go to the Crisis
So they went to the Crisis Clinic, which
promptly called Faber and reported the dilemma
succinctly-"There's a bunch of kids here with
no place-to go."
Faber's report had originally suggested t h e
possibility of using vacated polling places on
Forest and Mary St. to create "neighborhood
drop-in centers each boasting a pool table, ping-
pong table, soft drinks and a warm atmosphere."
He remembered the Mary property had recently
come up for sale by the city, and thought it would
be a simple matter to give it to the kids instead.
The Mary St. polling house does not represent
a large city investment-it is about the size of
a small recreation room-but it could turn into a
giant political hot potato. Faber notes that should
anything controversial happen on a piece of city
property that has been turned over to a radical-
looking "fringe group" by a liberal city admin-
istration, the conservatives in the community
could be expected to make political capital of the
issue. .
Faber notes that when he tried to sell the
ideas in his report to citizen's groups, he "dis-
covered antagonism and fear toward the un-
structured youth of the community. It is the
feeling of very many people that these long-
haired, barefoot children are a threat."

City officials d
posals, either. Two
"Why this group of
circumvent the pro
pilot project which
ful, to serve all spe
Faber is still u
tously. "Little thi
someone making n
and this is going 1
he says. "I would
future big projects
That is why we're
much concern."
In the meanti
finding any funds
center would nee
estimates on a $2,C
provide it. Neither '
ing with the Ann A:
the (anti-conspirat
were broken," Fab
ceptive as you can
Even if Faber
of center, the kid
probably wouldn't
'It is the
many pe
sponsored youth c
piciously like any
country-a pool t
luke-warm Pepsi's
hanging around tU
"We're not pr:
ourselves to the
one young spoke
finding ourselves."
The answer r
project, organized
of Canterbury Ho
Ann Arbor Argus
tions. Ozone Hous
"would be a place
to the established
together with thei
members of the yc
to sleep, where pe
a day at least, a
could go for help,
free time."
Organizers hc
the old Canterbur
they aren't sure t
tors will be able t
they come up wit
able to fund the c
the house.
So far, Ozone
stage. Its supporte
in an open town
It has taken two
differences betwe
style commune, a
probably get-a
some kind of pro:
Now, Ozone
spread throughot
financial support
will pay for rent,
service, bedding a:
The city won'
there is no sure s
merchants :in the
supporters are ba
at some point, soc
have a place to gi
-without paying
in the Universil
doesn't even thin
lem. "The kids in
he says. "The pro

.............s...........9 59.."...cks.sdm..e..... ..... . ... S. . ' :.:. ... ::":":':":.. . . . .
Williams declared in 1959 that blacks should meet

"violence with violence" and

"'lynching with lynching."

He armed himself and his neighbors to prove it.
..*.... ... * .. :.:----i-- --.......'.."...........' ...e ........1. 4'i.....a:

Kids in
Ann' Arbor
have no
place to g o
If a coalition of local radical youth organi-
zations can find $22,000 in the next few months,
they'll open a center called Ozone House where
estranged teenagers can go and be themselves
this summer, without pressures from parents
or police.
But if no one provides the money, amor-
phous groups of teenagers will again face a
summer with nothing to do, no place to go-
except the sidewalks and the streets. Some of
them will panhandle, but mostly they will just
stand around PJ's and Mark's and Canterbury
House looking conspicuously young, and out of
Ann Arbor first realized it had a sub-popula-

already earned a reputation for organizing the
black community. .o he devoted his time to
civil rights, and publishing a one-man revolu-
tionary newsletter called The Crusader.
Newsweek Magazine has called Williams
"the ideological leader of the Black Panther
Party"-there is no doubt his activities in Monroe
forshadowed the black power movement of the
late 1960's. Williams' fame started spreading
when he became president of the local sagging
NAACP (its membership, including Williams, was
two), and, after two white men were acquitted in
1959 for assaulting a black woman, he furiously
issued his famous meet "violence with violence"
edict. He had already organized self-defense
units in the black neighborhood as early as 1957.
Bu-t his public edict was too much, and M'a r t i n
Luther King and the national NAACP suspend-
ed him as chapter president for it.
Williams says he developed his black vio-
lence philosophy out of simple necessity. "I saw

ers and attacked. That started a minor race war,
and Williams knew he was in trouble.
"Black people were digging in (their neigh-
borhoods) and passing out arms, because the
country was bringing in Minutemen, Klansmen,
and rightwingers from all over the state. They
had amassed thousands in the town, and they
were going to come shooting in.
"Eve'ryone knew they were after me," recalls
Williams. He had narrowly escaped being mur-
dered four times before, when giant cement mixer
trucks tried to run him Qff the road (as the
Highway Patrol looked on), when carloads of
Klansmen pumped bullets into his house, or in
one instance, when a mob of whites armed with
baseball bats surrounded his car. Williams and
his friends were well armed, which saved him
then-and prevented his being arrested. When
a policeman working with the mob approached
his car and began drawing his gun, Willliams
Cont;nued on Page 23


Sunday, April 12, 1970 Sunday, April 12, 1970


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