Robert F. Williams was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956 and returned to his home in Monroe, North Carolina, where he became leader of the local NAACP. Soon after assuming that position, he confronted the city powers-that-be with what now seems a modest request: allow blacks to use the local swimming pool one day per week. The city fathers vetoed this on grounds that they simply did not have the money to drain and refill the pool after each use by the "Nigras." No doubt exercising considerable self-control in containing their rage, the local NAACP people, with Williams as spokesman, called for total integration of the facility--a request that was, of course, not granted. 1
This is but one illustration of the intransigence of that and other communities throughout the South and Southwest during the mid-1950s and 1960s. Throughout this time period, the Ku Klux Klan was active in the Monroe area and did its best to intimidate the black population, who could hardly turn for help to local law enforcement officials, because many police officers were themselves Klan members. Due in great part to this distressing situation, Williams organized segments of the black community into "self-defense units." 2
In 1959, after a white jury acquitted a white of a brutal attack on a black, Williams told a reporter that violence should be met with violence. This resulted in his six-month suspension as head of the Monroe NAACP. All this turned out to be more than Williams could take, and he began to look outward, toward Marxist-Leninist states.
Journeying to Cuba a number of times in 1960, and disseminating favorable information about Fidel Castro and his government, Williams became even more unpopular with American black leaders than previously. He even went so far as to telegram Cuban foreign minister Raul Roa at the U.N. The contents of this missive were read by Roa during a debate about the U.S.-backed 1961 invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs. The telegram stated:
Now that the United States has proclaimed military support for people willing to rebel against oppression. . . . Negroes in the South urgently request tanks, artillery, arms, money, use of American airfields and white mercenaries to crush the racist tyrants who have betrayed the American Revolution and the Civil War. We also request prayers for this noble undertaking.
Thus Williams attracted the attention of the revolutionary left. So impressed was Milton Rosen, a Communist party functionary who later founded the Pro