Radio Free Dixie : Robert F. Williams & the roots of Black power /

Main Author: Tyson, Timothy B.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1999.
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Review by Choice Review

Robert F. Williams grew up in Monroe, North Carolina, where Jesse Helms Sr., father of the current senior senator from that state, ruled the city streets as chief of police. Like many other black veterans, Williams swore not to take what his father's generation had endured. North Carolinians were aware that men like Williams knew how to use guns for self-defense. Tyson follows Williams's life as a civil rights fighter in his North Carolina years. Tyson also traces Williams's years in exile (forced on him by trumped-up charges of "kidnaping"), first in Cuba in the early 1960s (where he beamed a 50,000-watt broadcast he dubbed "Radio Free Dixie" to the US until the CIA managed to jam his airwaves), then in China, and finally, strangely enough, settling in the woods of Michigan for the last two quiet decades of his life. The story of Williams, the author concludes, "reveals that independent black political action, black cultural pride, and what Williams called armed self-reliance operated side-by-side in the South, in uneasy partnership with legal efforts and nonviolence protest." An important work, for all levels. P. Harvey; University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

To some, the civil rights radical Robert Williams's philosophy of armed self-defense was the very antithesis of Martin Luther King's nonviolent resistance. However, each man represented a wing of the growing civil rights movement, and both grasped and skillfully wielded the political leverage that the dynamics of the Cold War afforded the civil rights cause. After a stint in the army during WWII, Williams returned to his hometown in Monroe, N.C., where he built a uniquely militant NAACP chapter and attracted international attention to racist hypocrisy. When eventually forced by Ku Klux Klan vigilantes and an FBI dragnet to abandon his activities and flee the U.S. with his family in 1961, he found safe harbor in revolutionary Cuba, where he produced Radio Free Dixie, a program of politics and music broadcast to America. Written with the cooperation of Williams and his family, Tyson's firecracker text crackles with brilliant and lasting images of black life in the Carolinas and across the South in the '40s, '50s and '60s. Liberally peppered with quotes from Williams, many taken from his unpublished autobiography, While God Lay Sleeping, as well as from interviews and radio tapes, the book is imbued with the man's voice and his indefatigable spirit. An assistant professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the co-editor of Democracy Betrayed, Tyson successfully portrays Williams as a troubled visionary, a strong, stubborn and imperfect man, one who greatly influenced what became the Black Power Movement and its young leaders. Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Tyson (Afro-American studies, Univ. of Wisconsin) has transformed his graduate research into an important study of a forgotten Civil Rights leader. After helping to organize one of 1950s America's most militant NAACP chapters (in Monroe, NC), Robert F. Williams found himself at odds with the national Civil Rights leadership. Rejecting King's nonviolent approach, he began calling for black self-determination and armed self-reliance. In 1962, when his radical ideas got him into trouble with the KKK and the FBI, Williams took his family to Cuba, where he began beaming his influential "Radio Free Dixie" over Radio Havana's wires. Using a wide variety of primary sourcesÄespecially oral-history interviewsÄTyson resuscitates Williams as an important forefather of Black Power. Moreover, Tyson concludes that Williams's life shows how Black Power "emerged from the same soil, confronted the same predicaments, and reflected the same quest for African American freedom" as the nonviolent Civil Rights movement. This groundbreaking, skillfully written revisionist monograph (the first full-length study of Williams ever published) is intended primarily for an academic audience.ÄCharles C. Hay, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Richmond (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.