chapter  10
Radio Free Soul
Pages 14

Rohert F. Williams was the president of the Monroe, North Carolina. branch of the NAACP in 1959, when he was thrust into the national spotlight. In his response to the acquittal of a white man who had assaulted and attempted to rape a loeal black woman, Williams publicly asserted to black folks that "we must be willing to kill if necessary. We canoot take these people who da us injustice to the court and it becomes necessary to punish thern ourselves. In the future we are going to have to try and convict these people on the spot."1 In classic "old-school Negro" form, the NAACP. under the leadership of Rar Wilkens (Who? as my srudents would say), moved to suspend Williams from his post. By the summer 0[1960, Williams, by then the most radical voice within a burgeoning protest movement, was a fugitive, in flight in response to trumped-up charges of kidnapping. Seemingly "silenced," Williams and his wife, Mabel, reemerged in Cuba as the guest of Fidel Castro. It is there in Havana, Cuba, that Williams's voice would be heard every Friday night at 11:00 as the host of the "guerilla" radio broadcast Radio Free Dixie. Initially broadcast from a five-thousand-watt station, Williams and his wife could be heard as far away as Seattlc, Washington. According to Williams, the program was "aimed at the south primarily ... because the black people in the south didn't have any voice. This was really the first true radio where the black people could say what they

want to say and didn't have to worry about sponsors, they didn't have to worry about censors."2 Williams was supported in his efforts of resistance by friends, including poet Amiri Baraka, who sent the couple copies of new music. In one broadcast in 1966, Mabel Williams suggested that black soul singers were the "epic poets" of the black movement. Williams's Radio Free Dixie (also the title of Timothy Tyson's straight gangsta biography of Williams) remains one of the greatest examples of the power of black radio.