This story originally appeared in Rutgers Today
In late 1946, after launching an antilynching crusade in Washington, D.C., Paul Robeson and a handful of colleagues visited President Harry Truman in the White House.
Like his predecessors, Truman had avoided advocating for a federal antilynching law because of its unpopularity among Southern congressmen. But the crusaders, prompted by recent racial attacks in the South, insisted that the president take action immediately. The meeting didn’t last long. As Truman stressed that the timing wasn’t right, Robeson RC1919 said if the United States government wouldn’t protect African Americans, they’d have to defend themselves.