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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mabel Williams, August 20, 1999. Interview K-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Robert Williams's desire "to stand up for the right thing"

Williams describes her husband's passion for knowledge and his belief in equality. He was on the side of good, she believes, a member of a world fellowship of people who shared his convictions. But she sees few of that kind of person in Monroe.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mabel Williams, August 20, 1999. Interview K-0266. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So, then coming out of that environment and marrying Rob, and he's determined. He's been off to the Army and back. And he has encountered all kinds of discrimination in the Army. And discrimination was everywhere. And he was trying to get work and ran into all kinds of discrimination because of that. He was intellectually, I would say he was an intellectual superior to a whole lot of these people in Monroe. He wrote letters to the newspapers. He wrote poetry.
DAVID CECELSKI:
At [unclear] absolutely in a grasping kind of mind. Always wanting to learn and—.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Yes. He read constantly. He was constantly—. We had a library of books. And a lot of times when we had very little money a part of that money was spent for buying another book, you know, because he really had an inquiring mind. And trying hard to understand what was going on. And I think Robert had a basic—. He had a basic belief that once people got to know each other and accepted each other on—accepted each other's—our differences and our likenesses, and understanding that we were all human beings. He had a basic belief that people would come around that that we could live in peace and harmony, you know. He even thought that the government was going to come in our side. From the time I married him until the time that we returned from China, I believe that he had a basic belief that there had to be good people in this government that were going to stand up for what was right because he always wanted to stand up for the right thing. And he felt like other people would join in, good people. And because Monroe did not join in—
DAVID CECELSKI:
They just weren't with it.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
They just were not—. And they didn't believe like that. They didn't really believe that way. They didn't really believe that the government should be a government of, for all the people. And I thought—I don't know if they believe that now or not—that the government should be representative of all people and should look out for the best interests of all people. And that is something that when I'm talking to young people I say, "If the Klan had known what a great education we would have gotten, they would never have run us out of Monroe." [Laughter] You know, the Klan backing up the Monroe officials and the FBI coming in backing up the Klan and the Monroe officials. But it was a bad thing that turned into a good thing. Because getting out of Monroe and having dealings with people from all over the world, we were able to open up our minds and grow as individuals and grow to know, to really know, that there is a fatherhood of God and a brotherhood of man. That's the only way I know how to put it. And if you really believe in that, and you have to chose sides. There are forces out here that are forces for good and there are forces out here for evil. And there comes a time in your life when you have to make a choice. And once you make that choice and you choose the side of good, then it just opens up a whole new world for you. You can be tolerant of people's prejudices because you understand that they're coming from, you know, where they're coming from. That that's what made them that way. But then you can appeal to their better side and hope and pray that they will choose as well to support the good forces in this world. And become a part of this big family that I feel that we're—. Those of us who have chosen the side of good are really a big family. And we are a world family. And there's no racism in that family. There are races in that family. And there are people who prefer to be with their people and that's fine. But there is a respect for each other, and a respect for each other's beliefs. And so, anyway, that's going way beyond where—
DAVID CECELSKI:
Way beyond Monroe.
MABEL WILLIAMS:
Yes.
DAVID CECELSKI:
That's not what you found in—
MABEL WILLIAMS:
That's not what I found in Monroe. And I haven't seen that seed of good developing. It may be here. And I hope to God one day I'll find it and look at those people and say, "Here is the seed that is developing and growing in Monroe that is a part of the human family that realizes that we are all brothers and sisters in the final analysis.