“Somebody in the crowd fired a pistol and the people again started to scream hysterically, ‘Kill the niggers! Kill the niggers! Pour gasoline on the niggers!’ The mob started to throw stones on top of my car. So I opened the door of the car and I put one foot on the ground and I stood up in the door holding an Italian carbine. All this time three policemen had been standing about 50 feet away from us while we kept waiting in the car for them to come and rescue us. Then when they saw that we were armed and the mob couldn’t take us, two of the policemen started running. One ran straight to me, grabbed me on the shoulder and said, ‘Surrender your weapon! Surrender your weapon!’ I struck him in the face and knocked him back away from the car and put my carbine in his face and told him that we didn’t intend to be lynched. The other policeman who had run around the side of the car started to draw his revolver out of the holster. He was hoping to shoot me in the back. They didn’t know that we had more than one gun. One of the students (who was 17 years old) put a .45 in the policeman’s face an told him that if he pulled out his pistol he would kill him. The policeman started putting his gun back into the holster and backing away from the car and he fell into the ditch. There was a very old man, an old white man, out in the crowd, and he started screaming and crying like a baby, and he kept crying and he said, ‘God damn, God damn what is this God damn country coming to that the niggers have got guns, the niggers are armed and the police can’t even arrest them?!’ He kept crying and somebody led him away through the crowd.” — Robert F. Williams
Telling the reason why he called his book “Negros with guns.” This book had an important influence on the Black Panther Party. The quote is a selection from the book.
Several years later, Williams explains why he felt that the old white man was crying:
“It took me a long time to understand his feeling. Now I realize why he was crying. Because the gun had been the thing that had always kept them on top, and the police power. And he could see that slipping away, and his way of life was going. And this is why he was crying. And this is why I named my book “Negro’s with Guns.”
“Out in the country a white man attempted to rape a Black woman who was 8 months pregnant. Her neighbor who was a white woman had brought her to the police to try to get an indictment against the man who tried to rape her, and the Chief of police refused to give a warrant, so we had to get involved with the NAACP.
As a result, some of the men in community said, “well, suppose we take care of this. They’re not going to do anything.” Then I explained to them that they couldn’t take care of it. They said, ‘well, we could just go by his house and sprinkle maybe a few machine gun bullets,’ I said, ‘no, you can’t do that.’ They said, ‘we’ll just scare him,’ ‘no’. Then they said, ’ well, we could throw a stick of dynamite on his porch,’ ‘no.’ So I said it will be taken care of in the law.
So what they did, there was a young white woman lawyer from New York who volunteered to come and prosecute this man. She came all the way to North Carolina, and when it came up for trial, she never got the chance to say anything on the floor because they had brought this white man’s wife, and they set her down in the court.
And his attorney got up and said, ‘judge, your honor, this man is not guilty of any crime. He was just drinking and having a little fun. Now, you see this lovely creature? God’s pure flower, God’s greatest gift to man? This lovely flower, this lovely white woman? These people are going to have you to believe that that man left God’s greatest gift to him for this?“ Talking about the Black woman.
So, that was all! The white woman lawyer volunteer didn’t even get a chance to say a word in the court. The judge said, ‘dismissed.’ Then all the women in the courtroom, they had packed the courtroom, and they turned to me and they said, ‘if it hadn’t been for you, that man would have been punished. Now you’ve opened the floodgates on us. They feel that they can do anything they want to to us with impunity. Now what are you going to say?”
And I said,’ I’m going to say: From this day forward, we will meet violence with violence. We will become our own judges, our own prosecutors, and our own executioners. And that’s what we’ll do from now on.
And so they had to take the man out of the back door of the courthouse. They couldn’t bring him through the crowd of black women who had congregated there. It just happened a man was there from United Press International; he heard me say that. That night he called me back at midnight, he wanted to know, said, ‘you had time to cool off. I’ve got a statement you made today, and before I sent it out on the wire, I’d like to know, do you stand behind that statement?
I said, ‘yeah, I stand behind that statement. If you call me back 6 years from now I’ll still stand behind it.’ And they sent it out all over the country. Next day, it was like the world was on fire….” — Robert F. Williams
The story behind the statement where he said, “We must meet violence with violence.”