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Robert F. Williams' bold history lesson

As the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, Robert F. Williams led the small town of Monroe, North Carolina in protesting racism and segregation during the 1950s. But he was also head of a local NRA chapter that urged African Americans to defend themselves by meeting violence with violence. His story is one of the most fascinating and unusual in American history, and, in Monroe and elsewhere, it’s challenging how we talk about the Civil Rights Movement today.


  • Robert Heath, Monroe, NC resident and community organizer 
  • Patricia Poland, retired genealogy and local history librarian of the Union County Library in Monroe, NC
  • Ormand Moore, Monroe, NC native and Humanities Instructor at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

Special thanks to the Henry Hampton Collections at Washington University Libraries, the Southern Oral History Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and WBTV in Charlotte.

  • You can find a transcript of the episode here.
Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Anisa Khalifa is an award-winning podcast producer and host at WUNC. She grew up in a public radio household, and fell in love with podcasts shortly before her friends convinced her to start one with them about Korean dramas. Since joining WUNC in 2021, Anisa has produced Me and My Muslim Friends, CREEP, Tested and Dating While Gray, and is the host of WUNC's weekly podcast The Broadside.
Jerad Walker is WUNC’s editor of narrative audio and podcasts. He joined the station in 2022 after nearly a decade at Oregon Public Broadcasting.
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