Robert F. Williams

I am continuing to read Imani Perry’s outstanding book, “South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.” This was the summer 2023 recommended faculty book read by our school DEI team. It is an excellent book for many reasons, and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to a reference near the end of the book to “Robert F. Williams of Monroe, North Carolina,” who fled to Cuba in the late 1960s, I read his entire current English WikiPedia article tonight.

Since Shelly taught in Monroe last year and we frequent the Monroe Farmers Market on Saturdays, I’m especially interested in Monroe’s history, including civil rights era history. Williams was a notable and controversial person throughout his life, but especially in the 1960s because of his public positions on African Americans’ right to self-defense, his perspectives on non-violence in the US struggle for civil rights, and his travel to China, Cuba and Vietnam as he publicly denounced the United States for multiple reasons.

Over the 2023 Christmas holidays Shelly and I visited the relatively new “social district” in Monroe, North Carolina, and learned from one of the adult beverage establishment proprietors that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) had been a large and active organization in Monroe throughout the “Reconstruction” era as well as the years of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights struggle. The Robert F. Williams Wikipedia article, while needing a few citations, definitely confirms the historical accuracy of that observation. This is both sobering and intriguing to me.

I was really shocked last year that at Shelly’s public elementary school in Monroe, that there was absolutely NO PUBLIC MENTION or recognition of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr holiday. The school was in session that day, there was not a school assembly about it… There was not even a single MENTION of the holiday or Dr. King by school administrators or district leadership, in any official communications with faculty / staff or their community.

The (relatively) recent history of Monroe revealed in the Robert F. Williams Wikipedia article serves as an instructive backgrounder on why the MLK holiday was not even acknowledged last year at Shelly’s elementary school.

The U.S. Civil Rights era in the 1960s and even the US Civil War in 1861 – 1865 is such recent history, in relative terms. We still have deep racial wounds and divides in our community and nation, for which we need to seek healing and reconciliation.

My prayers tonight include all members of our community, that we would all both see and recognize the universal human rights which are the birthright of every human being on our planet, regardless of skin color or gender identification.

Let us each strive to act as cultural healers, not warriors. May God heal the deep wounds and scars in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors and fellow citizens.

Image by ChatGPT DALL-E






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