Frustrated and angered by violence condoned or abetted by the local authorities against blacks, the small community of Monroe, North Carolina, brought the issue of armed self-defense to the forefront of the civil rights movement. Under the leadership of Robert F. Williams (1925-1996), Monroe became the test case of the right of blacks to armed self-defense when law and order broke down.
In 1961 Williams was framed for kidnapping and had to flee the country with his family. From exile in Cuba, Williams told his story of the Monroe case to Marc Schleifer in a three-hour interview, beginning with his return to his home town of Monroe in 1955 as a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, when he joined the local chapter of the NAACP. Williams described his involvement, supplemented by material from Williams’ articles and editorials featured in the newsletter, The Crusader — which Williams and his wife Mabel continued to publish in Cuba for a circulation of thousands — and an interview with John Schultz first published in Studies on the Left. These materials became Negroes with Guns.
The single most important intellectual influence on Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, Negroes with Guns is a classic story of a man who risked his life for democracy and freedom.