Interview with Robert Williams


Robert Williams:

Yeah. Mrs. Lilly May Reed. Well, the only plea that his attorney made—they put his, wife, a white woman at his side while he was in court—and the defense attorney turned to the judge and said, Judge, your honor, Mr. Medlin is not guilty of any crime, he was just drinking and having a little fun. He said, you see this uh, woman here, his wife? This is God's lovely creature, and God's uh, greatest gift to man, the pure flower of life, this white woman, and do you think that he would leave God's greatest gift to man for that (talking about the black woman) and made it appear that the black woman was really on trial. And so the judge dismissed the case on the ground that he was not guilty. The other situation wherein the woman was kicked down the flight of stairs, this is Judge White, that uh, the man who was indicted, that we had to use uh NAACP to bring around his indictment, that he didn't even bother to come to his trial and he was acquitted. So then, naturally the cases had attracted most of the woman out of the community. So the black women turned to me in the courtroom and they said, now if it hadn't been for you these men would have been punished, and now you've opened the floodgates on us, that uh, they feel now they can do anything to us with impunity. So they said, well, what are you going to say now? And so I turned to them and I said from this day forward, we will uh, meet just—we will meet violence with ju—violence. We will enforce our own laws. We will become our own judges, our own juries and our own executioners. And we will meet lynching with lynching, if this is what it takes to stop lynching, but they can depend on us hereafter to use, meet violence with violence. So then, it so happened that there was an Associated Press man in the courtroom and he heard me tell them that. And they had to take the uh, Lewis Medlin, had to take him out of the back of the court, because they couldn't bring him through the crowd of enraged black women. So as a result, later that night, that was about four, four-thirty in the afternoon, later that night the Associated Press called me from the regional office in uh, Greensboro, North Carolina, they said, you made a statement earlier today, and we want to give you the time to cool off. And we'll read the statement back but do you still hold to this statement? And I told them that they called me six months or six years, that I would still say the same thing. That when there was a break-down of the law and no fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution that we will meet violence with violence. That this is uh, our thought, for that a natural right, for people to try to survive, and so as a result, though, they carried it over the wires, and the newspapers screamed that I had, a black leader had uh, advocated indiscriminate slaughter of whites and some even said that I had uh, advocated the slaughter of white babies in their cradle. As a result, the National Office of the NAACP got all worked up. Roy Wilkins called me and he said he wanted me to go on to network television and radio and apologize to the white people of this country, NAACP couldn't support that type of statement because uh, it would look like they were embracing violence, and as a result of that that they would lose contributions from middle-class whites who were heavy contributors to the NAACP. And I told him that I would only go on any television, any place else to apologize to white people after they had apologized to us first for what they had done to us in this country. And once they did that, I would apologize to them, but until that time I would not apologize, and then that I held to what I had said. And he called back again in about thirty minutes and he said we are going to have to suspend you if you will not. And I told him well they were going to have to suspend me because I was not going to renounce what I said, that I meant it. And he said, well we're too close together for, because we be blame the whole organization. And I told him when I was undergoing economic pressure, they didn't think we were so close together that they had to suffer the same fate that I suffered. And so, as a result I was uh, suspended from the NAACP. But what had happened then the whole branch said, well, they wouldn't have a branch. That they were going to dissolve it. So then the national office agreed that I would be suspended only for six months time. And that in six months I would be uh, automatically reinstated and in that time that my wife could serve as president of the branch, but it was to appease white America. And I could understand that they were afraid and everybody in confidence I was told later at the national convention that they felt the same way I did, but they said well Williams, you can't say this in public. And I said, well not only must we, we be willing to say it in public, we must be willing to do it in public. And but, they never did uh, like me from that and through the years I had caused them a lot of trouble. In fact when I had to go into exile they even put the lie out that I wasn't even a member of the NAACP.