Rev. John Williams To Talk About his Activist Father, Robert F. Williams

Ohio University Libraries, in association with Department of African American Studies Speaker Series, presents Reverend John Williams, son of Robert F. Williams, civil rights activist.  Reverend Williams will be giving a short talk about growing up as the son of an activist father during the height of the civil rights movement. He will entertain questions related to the film, Negroes with Guns, and speak on the Williams’s family experiences during their political exile in Cuba and China

Event details:  

  • Alden Library Friends Room, 3rd Floor
  • Tuesday, February 11,  12-3 pm
  • 12 – 1:15 Screening of the documentary,  Negroes with Guns 
  • 1:30 – 2:30 Reverend Williams’ Presentation
  • 2:30 – 3:00 Q & A

The film, Negroes with Guns profiles the life of Robert F. Williams, a civil rights pioneer and forefather of the Black Power movement.  He advocated armed self-defense against the racist terrorism of the Jim Crow South.  The film is based on the book of the same title written by Robert F. Williams in 1962.  Alden Library subscribes to the database, Black Thought & Culture, and Williams’ book can be found there as well, along with many other original texts.  

The life of Robert F. Williams is a reflection of a tumultuous time in American History: the Civil Rights Movement, birth of the NAACP, Freedom Riders, the landmark Kissing Case, Black Panther Party, Watts Riots, Fidel Castro & the Cuban Missile Crisis, Chairman Mao & the Cultural Revolution, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King all swirled around his timeline.  For a step into the past and a sampling of his work, go to Radio Free Dixie, a radio show Williams started when he was in exile in Cuba. Or check out the newsletter The Crusader, written during the same time, which can be found in the African American Newspaper database.  

Robert’s son John grew up during these times, but chose a different path, one of non-violence and with an emphasis on spirituality.  “The more I read [the Bible], the more intrigued I became as I learned about Jesus and what made him tick, his philosophy. Before I knew it, I’d read the whole Bible and came to the realization what was needed in terms of our struggle – that it could not be achieved by solely waging war in the natural realm, that it needed to also be addressed in the spiritual realm. For me it was a natural progression. When you do all you can do in the natural realm and it’s still not enough, where do you go?” (Sabir).

 Sabir, Wanda.  “Growing up Revolutionary: An interview with John Williams, son of Mabel and Robert F. Williams.”  The Freedom Archives. <>