- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (February 5, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807849235
- ISBN-13: 978-0807849231
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power New edition Edition
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A book that powerfully conveys the life and voice of one of the key personalities of the modern civil rights struggle. ("American Historical Review")
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. ("Publishers Weekly")
Tyson sharpens our historical focus, demonstrating just how crucial self-defense, guns, and nonviolence were to the successes of the black freedom struggle. ("Village Voice Literary Supplement")
Tyson has written, with compelling prose and great insight, an excellent biography as well as a definitive history of armed self-defense doctrines in the civil rights movement. ("The Journal of Southern History")
Written in lucid and confident prose with a solid reliance on first-hand accounts, "Radio Free Dixie" presents an engaging portrait of one man's continuous struggle to resist political and social oppression. ("Emerge")
Radio Free Dixie is a monumental book. It is impossible to conceive of the postwar black freedom struggle without Robert Williams. And yet, most histories barely mention the man. Timothy Tyson's profound biography rewrites the history of the African American struggle for democracy, unearthing its most militant streams and revealing its deep relationship to revolutions around the world.--Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University
Radio Free Dixie is a valuable and needed addition to the literature of the modern African American freedom struggle. For many activists of my generation, Robert F. Williams was a heroic, yet little understood, civil rights leader who attracted controversy when he challenged first the national NAACP leadership and then the United States government. Tyson has ably and vividly supplied the missing chapters of Williams's remarkable odyssey as an agitator in the South and fugitive rebel in the Third World.--Clayborne Carson, director, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project
Tyson's main achievement, in addition to conquering the problem academics have in writing readable prose, is to put Williams's Black Power ideology and actions into the larger context of the era-- the Cold War, the nonviolent civil struggle, and the questions of gender and sexuality in racial politics. This is an interesting book about a captivating personality during a fascinating time of recent history.--Detroit Free Press
The events that cast Williams into the arms of communist Cuba are documented in dazzling and disturbing detail in Timothy B. Tyson's new biography. Williams's unique--and, in some civil rights histories, forgotten--role in the black freedom struggle has finally been given its due.--The Independent
Tyson has written, with compelling prose and great insight, an excellent biography as well as a definitive history of armed self-defense doctrines in the civil rights movement. He has produced a fascinating book that is a welcome antidote to the historical pap being spooned out in popular documentaries these days.--Journal of Southern History
An important study of a forgotten Civil Rights leader. . . . [A] groundbreaking, skillfully written revisionist monograph (the first full-length study of Williams ever published).--Library Journal
A sympathetic, absorbing portrait of one of the most influential and controversial African-American leaders of the twentieth century. . . . A remarkable, often harrowing, account of the civil rights movement and some of the people that made it possible. . . . A book that powerfully conveys the life and voice of one of the key personalities of the modern civil rights struggle.--American Historical Review
Fills a void in the history of the civil rights struggle and provocatively details an evolution of armed black nationalism during the 50s that was overshadowed by the nonviolent movement associated with Martin Luther King. . . . Contain[s] a great deal of intriguing and revelatory information that makes it a worthy read.--Charlotte Observer
Meticulously researched. . . . [and] magisterially argued.--Journal of American History
Popular and academic cultures share a deeply-rooted tendency to either marginalize or demonize African American self-assertion. This thoughtful, eloquent book, much more than a biography, offers us a chance to re-examine some of the assumptions that have long undermined our national discourse on race. It turns out that Rosa Parks and the gun-toting Robert Williams are not so far apart, a fact that cannot be explained in the context of the traditional civil rights paradigm.--Charles Payne, Duke University
Tim Tyson's Radio Free Dixie is a spellbinding narrative that analyzes the making of black manhood in an era that bridged Jim Crow and civil rights. Through the life of Robert Williams, Tyson provides a stunning reappraisal of non-violence as a civil rights strategy, putting gender and class at its center. Tyson proves the continuity of African American resistance and white supremacy over a century. And he gives us a hero. Robert Williams is a giant abroad in the land of Jesse Helms.--Glenda E. Gilmore, Yale University
An important work, for all levels.--Choice
This book is a must read for black history month, or any other month. In fact, Tyson sums up Williams's legacy beautifully.--National Post [Ontario, Canada]
A richly researched, carefully written book that provides a compelling analysis of the 1950s roots of Black Power in Monroe, North Carolina. Timothy Tyson's insightful and provocative study of Robert F. Williams's militant resistance to white supremacy is at once complex and straightforward, and yet always profoundly moving. This is an important book, and it makes a valuable contribution to American social history, African American history, and black studies.--Darlene Clark Hine, Michigan State University
Radio Free Dixie is a superb biography, one that will change the way we think about the black freedom struggle of the 1950s and early 1960s. Tyson eloquently portrays Robert F. Williams as an activist ahead of his time. Occupying the ideological territory between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Williams led nonviolent protests while developing a philosophy of self-defense that at times bordered on a call to armed insurrection.--John Dittmer, DePauw University
Tim Tyson, by excavating the story of Robert Williams, has served to deepen an understanding of the Cold War-era African-American freedom struggle. His exploration of the meaning of race, gender and class in the South of the 1950s is an eye opener. His portrayal of the deep undercurrents and diverse strands of resistance to Jim Crow should be read by all those concerned not only with the hidden history, but with the ongoing American dilemma of an evolving but still all-too-persistent color line.--Madison, WI Capital Times
[A] radiant biography. . . . Tyson is that rarest of writers: a successful scholar who can actually tell a compelling story in clear, even handsome language. . . . Tyson sharpens our historical focus, demonstrating just how crucial self-defense, guns, and nonviolence were to the successes of the black freedom struggle.--Village Voice Literary Supplement
[An] excellent book. . . . Timothy Tyson has done Williams, and scholars of 20th century world radicalisms, a great service with Radio Free Dixie. . . . Definitive in its coverage of Williams's life between his birth in North Carolina in 1925 and his exile to Cuba in 1961.--Against The Current
This wonderful book will help the younger generation understand the depths of terror and repression which African Americans were exposed to and the courage, intelligence, resourcefulness, and irreplaceable role of one of its truly great working class leaders.--Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Rutgers University
[A] stunning new biography. . . . Written in lucid and confident prose with a solid reliance on first-hand accounts, Radio Free Dixie presents an engaging portrait of one man's continuous struggle to resist political and social oppression.--Emerge
[This] book couldn't be more timely because it challenges the effort of many white Americans to sanitize, deny and distort the past, often in the name of heritage.--Raleigh News & Observer
Timothy Tyson has written a compelling story that needed to be told and now needs to be read by all who care about race, courage, and humanity. Robert Williams was an inspiration to many and a threat to others; Tyson gives him his proper due.--Julian Bond
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 . . . the book is imbued with the man's voice and his indefatigable spirit. . . . 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.--Publishers Weekly
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Robert Williams odds with the NAACP were for three reasons: 1.) the NAACP was a “bourgeois organization. It did not want to deal with the underclass and such.” 2.) The NAACP was a bureaucracy with its main office based in NY and they moved too slow for the likes of the local offices throughout the South and 3.) the NAACP was fundamentally nonviolent; and this was their biggest point of contention. Williams condoned armed resistance, or as he said: “meet violence with violence.” He had a quote that summed up his feelings on the issue of nonviolence:
“Williams denounced the ‘emasculated men’ who preached nonviolence while white men beat their wives and daughters. ‘When we passively submit to these barbaric injustices,’ he raged, ‘we most surely can be called the ‘sissy race' of all mankind.”
This ideology made Williams and opponent to the NAACP, MLK, and of course White people.
The SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), NAACP and even the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) were all philosophically and fundamentally nonviolent. The nonviolence in dispute was in three areas; two they agreed upon and one was a little gray. The areas of nonviolence (or more appropriately, whether or not violence should be used) were 1.) When attacked at home or otherwise minding your business. 2.) In retaliation for an attack (i.e. pursuing and punishing attackers) 3.) retaliating against attackers during protests.
Williams and the others agreed on the first two issues. Yes, one had the right to defend himself and his family. No, Black people shouldn’t take up arms and seek justice by punishing Whites that victimized Blacks. But, should I be able to defend myself during a picket or a sit-in when there are Whites spitting on me and beating me? I think they disagreed to some degree here. In any case, this book didn’t paint the NAACP or MLK in a favorable light.
Another enlightening item from the book was that Williams was at the core of the “Monroe Kissing Case”. This is another obscure event in a long line of obscure injustices to Black people. A little White girl, playing a game, kissed two Black boys, aged 8 and 10. Once she told her mother about the game the mother called the police and those two boys were summarily arrested and locked up. Had those boys been older, like Emmitt Till, they would’ve been killed. The case gained international traction because of Robert Williams. At that time, 1959, the U.S. was still in the Cold War and hated to have her dirty laundry be aired when she was proclaiming “liberty and justice for all”. So, it was a strategic measure for Williams to make the case very public. As the author, Timothy B. Tyson, said, “In the Cold War world, however, overt white supremacy became an increasingly unaffordable embarrassment for the federal government.”
Essentially, this book covers North Carolina in the Jim Crow era and more specifically Robert Williams, an important character in the Civil Rights era. The book was done in a scholarly way as it was a university project. I’d say 1/4th of the book was references, bibliography and an index. It may read dryly in places because it's not a narrative, it is a history lesson with some quotes from some of the participants in the events. I appreciate the book if for just introducing me to Robert Williams.
Although this review touches on the major aspects of the case, it barely scratches the surface of the information contained therin. I found that it was difficult to read more than 3 pages without the urge to jot something down, reflect in contemplation, or call someone to relate something that seemed beyond belief and yet, unknown in popular culture.