Ku Klux Klan routing, January 18, 1958.

Record Number: 
TYSO001
Citation: 

Tyson, Timothy B. "Ku Klux Klan routing, January 18, 1958." Radio free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the roots of Black power. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 1999. 137-40.

Annotation: 

This brief account makes use of materials in the Robert F. Williams Papers and the James W. "Catfish" Cole Papers, as well as newspaper articles and other sources published following the incident. Klan leader Catfish Cole turned his attention to Robeson County in an attempt to regain power after his followers were crushed on October 5, 1957, by the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP (described on pages 86-89). Cole stated, prior to the Robeson County incident, "There's about 30,000 half-breeds in Robeson County and we are going to have a cross burning and scare them up" (p. 137).

Commenting on the widespread publicity the Robeson County routing received, Robert F. Williams wrote that newspapers " 'played up the Indian-Klan fight . . .' because the Indians are a tiny minority and people could afford to laugh at the incident as a sentimental joke—but no one wanted Negroes to get the impression that this was an accepted way to deal with the Klan' " (Williams, Negroes with guns, pp. 57-58, qtd. by Tyson on p. 139).

Tyson makes the following comment about the Robeson County routing: "Both the Lumbee triumph over the Klan and the national reaction to it—especially when compared with the reaction to any show of force by black citizens--revealed a great deal about the racial, sexual, and gender politics from which these events emerged. The Lumbee victory was a perfect display of both physical courage and manly restraint. They had taken up guns, defended the honor of their women, and defeated the foe decisively; yet they maintained sufficient composure that no one had been killed. In a society in which manhood constituted the most powerful metaphor for citizenship and even for human volition itself, the Lumbees became men, the Klan lost face, and the world applauded" (p. 140).

Tyson goes on to discuss the Robeson County routing in terms of the racial pressures of the Jim Crow South at that time, particularly the desire of the Lumbee to be identified as "not Black." In his discussion, he uses quotations from Harry Golden (a Jewish liberal writer living in Charlotte who wrote, among other things, articles for the newspaper The Carolina Israelite) and Carolyn Cole, wife of James W. "Catfish" Cole.

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