African American civil rights activist and Black militant leader in Monroe County North Carolina who came to advocate armed self-defense in response to violence, left the United States in 1961 and lived in Cuba and China until 1969 when he settled in Baldwin Michigan. Papers include correspondence, newspaper clippings, audio-visual material, manuscripts, petitions, and government documents documenting the civil rights movement, black nationalism, radical politics in the United States and Williams's experiences in Cuba and China.
The Robert Williams papers, dating from 1951, include correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, audio-visual material, manuscripts, petitions, and government documents. The collection documents a wide variety of subjects: the American civil rights movement, Black Nationalism, cold war politics, Castro's Cuba, Mao's China, and the radical left in the United States.
As Robert Williams continued to add to his collection following his initial donation in 1976, it was necessary to arrange and describe the materials based on groupings of dates of accessioning. Thus the bulk of the collection is divided into two subgroups: 1976-1979 Accessions and 1983-1997 Accessions with much overlapping of material. In addition, the collection contains a small series of papers collected by his son John C. Williams and a separate series of Audio-Visual Materials.