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International Socialist Review, Fall 1961


Monroe, N.C.


From International Socialist Review, Vol.22 No.4, Fall 1961, p.102.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The American people have been shocked and horrified, time and again, at the blatant injustice of the courts, the police and the legislatures of the South. Their rabid racism has not only mocked the most elementary sense of human decency in this country, and internationally, but has violated both the spirit and the letter of the law of this land.

Time and again, the majority of the American people have voiced their indignation by demanding federal enforcement of every man’s right to freedom and justice (witness the election campaign programs of both major parties on the question of civil rights). The Federal government has been chided for inaction; the Justice Department has been accused of inaction. But until now, neither has been charged with conspiring with the Southern racists, the Ku Klux Klan to persecute those who are fighting for freedom in the South.

That is what is unique in the current struggle in Monroe, North Carolina. The Federal government, has joined hands with the Ku Klux Klan and the racists who run the local government in Monroe to persecute those who have fought bravely for human dignity and justice.

The facts are these: for an entire week young Freedom Riders and members of the Monroe Non-Violent Action Committee had been harassed by racist attacks on their peaceful demonstrations against segregation. On Aug. 27 the Freedom Fighters demonstrated in front of the Union County Courthouse in protest against police collusion with the racists. Thousands of racists, organized by the Ku Klux Klan, threatened the demonstration with violence and the pickets were compelled to seek refuge inside the Courthouse. Instead of protection, many of them were arrested and jailed. One was badly beaten in his cell.

Robert F. Williams, President of the Union County NAACP was at home with his family when the mobs began their campaign of terror. The Negro residents of New Town, the Negro district of Monroe, gathered together to defend themselves against a mob invasion and armed caravans of the KKK. The Negroes returned the fire of the Klan.

A white couple drove into New Town. They were stopped and disarmed. They were taken to Williams’ house and at Williams’ suggestion they were released. They sought refuge in Williams’ house for several hours while fighting continued outside. Then they departed unharmed.

There are conflicting stories about this incident. Monroe police claim that Williams held the white couple as “hostages,” demanding the release of the Freedom Fighters in exchange for the white couple, the Stegalls. The Negroes who witnessed the incident say Williams accorded the white couple protection which the Stegalls had sought.

Racist Monroe officials, who collaborate openly with known KKK leaders, after six years of struggle with the militant Monroe anti-segregation leader, are undoubtedly quite capable of concocting a frame-up against Robert Williams. It would seem that this was the case. Even after consultation with the police, Mrs. Stegall told North Carolina newspapers that Williams had “chided” the crowd.

“They [the crowd of Negroes] were expecting somebody to come after them, and they were all ready. I’ve never seen so many guns in my life,” she told the Charlotte Observer, Aug. 29. “Williams, he made out like he wanted to let us go. He acted like he wanted to be nice to us. But he said if he let us go the mob outside would kill us. Somebody kept yelling, ‘Let me kill them. Let me kill them.’”

Robert F. Williams, in a letter made public by The Militant and the National Guardian, declared,

“I had saved the lives of people who were now accusing me of kidnaping. I am not guilty.

Williams wrote that during the night of this rioting, Aug. 27,

“I received a telephone call from a voice I identified as that of the Chief of Police. He said that I had caused a lot of race trouble and that state troopers were coming and that in 30 minutes I would be hanging on the courthouse square. I saw police cars blocking off the block in which we lived ... I told my wife that we had to leave with the children right away and that we didn’t have time to get any clothing or anything ...”

Williams and his family slipped past the police cars through an alley. With the help of friends they escaped to Greensboro, N.C., where they took a bus for New York. They thought they would find safety out of the reach of Southern racists.

But alas! The FBI joined hands with the Monroe racists and the Ku Klux Klan. The FBI issued a warrant for Williams’ arrest on charges of kidnaping. FBI Wanted Circular Number 290 was posted throughout the country. In this circular Williams was vilely described as “extremely dangerous,” “heavily armed,” and “schizophrenic.”

This is nothing less than a call for legally lynching Robert Williams. It is an invitation to shoot him on sight in the Southern tradition of legal lynchings. Through the FBI, the hand of the KKK has reached across the entire nation.

How to explain this barbarous, murderous action of the FBI? Robert F. Williams, in his letter to The Militant, explained it this way:

“My only crime is that I am a Negro who has loudly and militantly protested America’s ruthless oppression of Negroes. The US Government seeks my arrest at the request of Union County Klansmen because my newsletter, The Crusader, was in opposition to Kennedy’s censorship plan.

”In conjunction with the KKK, the US Government is seeking to lynch me for political reasons. The US Government’s interest is based solely upon the fact that I refuse to be an Uncle Tom apologist for the State Department and because I have openly supported Revolutionary Cuba.

”The US Government knows that I am innocent of any crime. It seeks to take over where the Ku Klux Klan failed. It intends to lynch me to silence my international newsletter which represents unbridled opposition to imperialism and racism.”

The Committee to Aid the Monroe Defendants, headed by Dr. A.E. Perry of Monroe, N.C., has asked everyone to send protests to the Department of Justice and to Attorney General Robert Kennedy against the FBI’s legal-lynch campaign of Robert Williams. Demand that the circulars be retracted at once and that all who received the circulars be notified immediately that the information on them is false.

In addition, the Negro people of Monroe need help. They have been living under conditions of terror. One Freedom Fighter was forced by a fully garbed KKK gang to leave the state under threat of violence against his family. Another is still in jail. Many others suffered economic reprisals. Some have been cut off relief. They need the help of all Americans who believe in equality and justice.

The Committee to Aid the Monroe Defendents has called for a thousand people to join as members and work for the defense of the Monroe victims of racist terror. Carlton Beals, W.E.B. DuBois, Maxwell Geismar, Horace Kallen, the Monroe Freedom Riders are among the first to submit their names to the honor role of CAMD.

The Editors of the International Socialist Review join in this appeal. We urge you to join and to send financial aid immediately to: The Committee to Aid the Monroe Defendents, Suite 1117, 741 Broadway, New York 6, N.Y.

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