Robert Franklin Williams (February 26, 1925 – October 15, 1996) was a civil rights leader and author, best known for serving as president of the Monroe, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP in the 1950s and early 1960s. At a time when racial tension was high and official abuses were rampant, Williams was a key figure in promoting armed black self-defense in the United States.
Williams helped gain gubernatorial pardons for two African-American boys convicted for molestation in the controversial Kissing Case of 1958. He also succeeded in integrating the public library and the public swimming pool in Monroe. He obtained a charter from the National Rifle Association and set up a rifle club, which became active defending blacks from Ku Klux Klan nightriders. He used the NAACP to support Freedom Riders who came to Monroe in the summer of 1961. That year he and his wife were forced to leave the United States to avoid prosecution for kidnapping, on charges trumped up during violence related to white opposition to the Freedom Ride. The kidnapping charges came after a white couple sought shelter in Williams' home when they were confronted by black protesters while driving through Monroe's black community. A self-professed Black Nationalist, Williams lived in both Cuba and The People's Republic of China during his exile.
Williams' book Negroes with Guns (1962) details his experience with violent racism and his disagreement with the pacifist wing of theCivil Rights Movement. The text was widely influential; Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton cited it as a major inspiration. Rosa Parks gave the eulogy at Williams’ funeral in 1996, praising him for “his courage and for his commitment to freedom,” and concluding that “The sacrifices he made, and what he did, should go down in history and never be forgotten.”