Fighting for Gender and Race Equality

October 1, 2010 in 1950s-1960s, Research methods

Robert F. Williams of North Carolina is given credit as being one of the most influential people in the history of the Black Power/Black Panther movement.  He has books written about him, documentaries shown of him, and in general is praised as a revolutionary for the struggle starting in the 1950’s.   There is a saying that “behind every powerful man is a powerful woman”, and for Robert Williams, this was most certainly the case.

Mabel Williams shared the same dedication as her passioante husband, yet she recieves a fraction of the recognition as her husband did.  Although I don’t believe that Robert and Mabel practiced so diligently in the struggle for black equality for fame, I do think that all of the hard work and sacrifices the couple made warrants great, but equal recognition.

The fact is that while fighting for the equality for people of color, Mabel was also continuing the fight for gender equality.  Mabel fought for black women to defend themselves with guns if necessary to prevent people like the Ku Klux Klan from raping and lynching their community.  Furthermore, when Robert and Mabel were being sought after by the FBI in the in the early 1960’s, the pair fled to Cuba to evade wrongfully being imprisoned.  While living in Cuba Robert spoke on a radio show called “Radio Free Dixie”, and was able to continue to fight for equality while not even being in the same country.  Of course Robert was the one on the radio that everyone would hear, while Mabel worked behind the scene, getting little to no credit while she had to endure the same hardships that Robert did.

2 responses to Fighting for Gender and Race Equality

  1. This is a good point about who gets the focus in constructing and then re-emphasizing historical narratives. There’s a very powerful film about Robert Williams (take a look at the snippet at but much of this couldn’t have happened if Mabel hadn’t helped to create the story about her husband’s life.

    So, it’s really exciting to know that we’ve got people here working on getting the word out about Kentucky women’s experiences in the civil rights era!

  2. This is a very valid point. While Robert Williams was in jail, his wife was very devoted to continuing the spread of his ideas and works through out the community. In my African American History class last semester I was taught a lot about Williams and his public arrest in North Carolina during the civil rights movement he was condoning in the south.

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