Bob Woodson: Civil Rights Champion and Critic

Bob Woodson (Contributed Photo)

Robert “Bob” Woodson has a long history of clashing with civil rights activists. In fact, he recalled during a recent interview with The Dispatch, his disputes with the civil rights movement began when he was still part of it.

“The people on the picket line were janitors, hairdressers—they’re just ordinary black folks,” Woodson said of a late-1960s protest in West Chester, Pennsylvania, outside a pharmaceutical company.

After pressure, the company hired nine black chemists. But “when we asked them to join this movement, they said they got these jobs because they were qualified—not because of the sacrifices of those out there who were picketing.” Woodson came to believe that the civil rights movement was resulting in “promoting the interests of middle-class, well educated” black Americans “even if it meant it was coming at the expense of low-income blacks.”

Blunt rhetoric like that has earned the soon-to-be retired 85-year-old plenty of criticism. But his lifetime focus on empowering low-income black communities has garnered grassroots support from those communities, helping to make him one of the most recognized black conservatives today. 

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