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Robert Franklin Williams FBI files

Identifier: MS0329

Scope and Contents

Aside from one small folder of biographical and background material, the collection consists entirely of documents photocopied from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's file on Robert Franklin Williams (file no. 100-HQ-387728). In certain areas the documents are heavily censored, and not all sections were provided by the FBI. The documents are declassified, and were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (Title 5, U.S. Code, Section 552) and under the Privacy Act (U.S. Code, Section 552 (a).


  • Creation: 2000


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Franklin Williams was born in Monroe, North Carolina on February 26, 1925. During the Second World War, he worked as a machinist and led a strike of workers at the age of 16. Williams moved to Michigan and became an autoworker, fighting in the race riots that engulfed Detroit in 1943. In 1947, he married Mabel Ola Robinson. After serving an enlistment in the Marine Corps, Williams returned to Monroe in 1955 and founded the Union County Branch of the NAACP, recruiting members among la borers, farmers, domestic workers, and the unemployed. In 1957, he took a group of black children to the Monroe public swimming pool in an attempt to open the pool to blacks. After this incident local blacks began receiving death threats and Williams responded by organizing armed squads of blacks for their self-defense. This led to a confrontation with the local Ku Klux Klan, which had its southeastern regional headquarters in Monroe. The Klan began to raid black neighborhoods in Monroe and on October 5, 1957, Klan members were driven out of the Newton section of Monroe by the squads of armed blacks that Williams had organized. In 1958, Williams led an effort to free two black youths who had been imprisoned for kissing a nine-year-old white girl by recruiting a civil rights attorney from New York to plead their case. In addition, he elicited international publicity for the case, which eventually caused great embarrassment for the U.S. government. These efforts led to the release of the youths and dismissal of all charges against them. However, Williams was subsequently suspended from the NAACP after remarking that blacks in Monroe "would defend our women and children, our homes and ourselves with arms" when a white man was acquitted of assaulting Mary Ruth Reed, a pregnant black woman. In 1961, Williams again attempted to integrate the Monroe public swimming pool by organizing a picket line which forced the pool to close. This led to an armed confrontation with local white citizens and the police. The Freedom Riders also came to Monroe in 1961 and were supported by Williams, though he refused to participate in their pledge of non-violent protest. When the Freedom Riders arrived in Monroe they were assaulted by a white mob and black citizens started to form armed groups in self-defense. In the resulting confusion, a white couple was given refuge in Williams residence, but he was subsequently charged by the local police with kidpnapping. The police also used the incident to raid the homes of blacks to disarm them. The confrontation forced Williams to flee the United States to Cuba, where he lived with his wife Mabel for five years. From there, they organized Radio Free Dixie, which advocated armed self-defense and black liberation. Williams also continued to publish The Crusader newsletter which he had started in 1959. After a falling out with Fidel Castro in 1966, he moved with his family to China and lived there during the height of the Cultural Revolution inspired by Mao Zedong. Williams met Mao personally and toured with him through China, visiting communes and factories. Despite these connections, Williams maintained that he was a "militant revolutionary nationalist" and not a communist. As the international chairman of the Revolutionary Action Movement and president-in-exile of the Republic of New Africa, Williams traveled to countries in Asia and Africa. He also traveled to North Vietnam, where he met with Ho Chi Minh and broadcast antiwar propaganda to black U.S. soldiers fighting in South Vietham. In 1969, Williams returned with his family to the United States and settled in Baldwin, Michigan. For the next several years he fought extradition to North Carolina to face kidnapping charges. In 1976, the charges were dropped. Williams died in October, 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. [Sources: "In Memory of Robert F. Williams: A Voice for Armed Self-Defense and Black Liberation." Chicago: Revolutionary Worker Online, 2003 (; and New York Times obituary, Oct. 19, 1996.]


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Language of Materials



Declassified documents copied from Federal Bureau of Investigation records regarding Robert Franklin Williams, a civil rights leader and black revolutionary from Monroe, North Carolina. All records in the collection were acquired through the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act (United States Code, Section 552).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Museum of the New South, 2003.

Processing Information

Processed by James Kusik, 2003.

Robert Franklin Williams FBI files
James Kusik
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

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