Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flashback: Radio Free Dixie

Rob Williams, at right, in Cuba
Radio Free Dixie crackled to life at 11 p.m. on Fridays from Havana and Rob Williams took to the air.
Williams' hour-long program targeted blacks in the South and featured music from such artists as Otis Redding and Nina Simone, along with blistering attacks on the U.S. government.
Williams was from North Carolina. In 1956, he became president of the NAACP in Monroe, N.C. At the time, Ku Klux Klan rallies in the South routinely drew thousands of followers. Racial discrimination was widespread and white supremacists sometimes attacked and killed blacks for real or imagined crimes.

In 1957, Williams and his followers fired back after Klan members shot toward the home of the NAACP's vice president.
Martin Luther King Jr. had been urging nonviolent resistance, but Williams believed blacks should take up arms and "meet violence with violence."
The NAACP's national board disagreed with his approach and suspended him. By the early 1960s, Williams had bigger problems. He faced kidnapping charges - which he believed were trumped up - and worried he might be killed.
In 1961, he and his wife, Mabel, fled to Cuba. They soon started Radio Free Dixie. Williams later said he had to get permission from Fidel Castro to start the station.
From Havana, Williams urged American blacks to fight inequality and injustice.
In a July 30, 1965, broadcast, he said:
Death and violence run wild in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and throughout racist America...It should be more than clear to us that if we are ever to be free, we must liberate ourselves. The courts are rigged. The whole system is rigged against our people.
Common street dogs enjoy more protection of law than black humans in racist America. If we want protection, we must protect ourselves. If we want freedom, we must fight for it.
Human dignity requires us to fight back...Let our people take to the streets in fierce numbers and meet violence with violence. Let our battle cry be heard around the world: freedom, freedom, freedom now or death.
Cynthia Hill
On Tuesday, I watched "Negroes with Guns," a 2006 documentary about Williams. Cynthia Hill and Cara Pilson, associate directors of the film, screened the documentary at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. They teach documentary film courses at Wake Forest University.
Their film describes Williams' time in Cuba and his eventual decision to leave the island in 1965 and settle in China.
Cara Pilson
Williams and his wife returned to the United States in 1969 and authorities promptly arrested him. North Carolina later dropped the kidnapping charges against him.
Williams died in 1996.
Rob Williams, at left, in Cuba


Antonio said...

I did read a biography of him several years ago. I got the feeling he left Cuba to avoid a confrontation with Fidel. He was a bit too much of an independent thinker for Fidel.

Tracey Eaton said...

I got the same impression. He didn't want to conform and felt the Cuban political system was too restrictive.