Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


African American Studies, Africana Women's Studies, and History

First Advisor

Daniel Black, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Eric Duke, Ph.D.


Many academic and popular accounts of the Civil Rights era emphasize nonviolent activists and activism at the expense of those who embraced armed self-defense and resistance. Nevertheless, the latter played a significant role within these struggles. One of the most significant was Robert F. Williams, a black militant activist—and president of the local NAACP chapter in Monroe, North Carolina—who embraced armed self-defense as a necessary and instrumental component for the liberation of black people in America. After publicly declaring that blacks should defend themselves and hold racist whites accountable through armed self-defense, he was met with immeasurable backlash from other civil rights leaders and organizations, including the national NAACP. The purpose of this study is to examine his beliefs in the necessity of armed self-defense, as well as his impact on the civil rights movement.