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"The Deacons for Defense and Justice was formed by African-American men in Jonesboro and Bogalusa, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. They were factory workers, farmers, common laborers, fathers, husbands, and church-goers who organized to protect themselves and their communities from the terrorism and oppression of the Ku Klux Klan organizations, White Citizens Councils, and police agencies."Lester Sloan

On non-violence and self-defense, African Americans and the right to bear arms

Commentary by Deoliver47, Black Kos Editor

Right after Barack Obama was elected there was a reported run on gun and ammo supply shops. News articles, and gun forums  were reporting  an alleged ammo shortage across the nation.  Open carry demos have just taken place, and there is talk from the white right about the need for more armed militias.  There has been quite a bit of discussion about this on Daily Kos.  

I have always found it ironic that organizations like the NRA have consistently been supported by white right wingers, yet historically some of the same people have worked long and hard to stop black people from bearing arms.  

I remember the media frenzy that took place, in the late 60’s when members of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense showed up in Sacramento with weapons


and had similar demonstrations in Seattle(shown above), and other parts of the nation. As a result,  on June 28, 1967  The California State legislature passed the Mulford Act, prohibiting the carrying of firearms in any public place, which was signed into law by then Governor Ronald Reagan and  which effectively outlawed  Black Panther safety patrols in Oakland.

We all know the history of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement and non-violence.  However the black liberation struggle in the United States has never been monolithic, and there has always been a difference of opinion in the community  around issues about guns, gun control and the 2nd amendment, including where many of us stand on self-defense.  Though the BPP was the focus of attention and symbolized one perspective on this issue, much less has been written about a group that pre-dated the Panthers by two years.

That was The Deacons for Defense and Justice.

Not much was written about them, and though many of us in the movement knew about the Deacons it wasn't until 2004, when the University of North Carolina Press published The Deacons for Defense Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, by Lance Hill, that a comprehensive history was available for the greater reading public.


In 1964 a small group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana, defied the nonviolence policy of the mainstream civil rights movement and formed an armed self-defense organization--the Deacons for Defense and Justice--to protect movement workers from vigilante and police violence. With their largest and most famous chapter at the center of a bloody campaign in the Ku Klux Klan stronghold of Bogalusa, Louisiana, the Deacons became a popular symbol of the growing frustration with Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent strategy and a rallying point for a militant working-class movement in the South.

Lance Hill offers the first detailed history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, who grew to several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the Deep South and led some of the most successful local campaigns in the civil rights movement. In his analysis of this important yet long-overlooked organization, Hill challenges what he calls "the myth of nonviolence"--the idea that a united civil rights movement achieved its goals through nonviolent direct action led by middle-class and religious leaders. In contrast, Hill constructs a compelling historical narrative of a working-class armed self-defense movement that defied the entrenched nonviolent leadership and played a crucial role in compelling the federal government to neutralize the Klan and uphold civil rights and liberties.

A year before the publication of the book, the Deacons were the subject of a 2003 made for television movie, Deacons for Defense.


The film, produced by Showtime stars academy-award winner Forest Whitaker, Ossie Davis and Jonathan Silverman. The film is based on the actual Deacons for Defense and their struggle to fight against the Jim Crow South in a powerful area of Louisiana that is controlled by the Ku Klux Klan. The film bases the story around a white-owned factory that controls the economy of the local society and the effects of racism and intimidation on the lives of the African-American community. The film follows the psychological transition of a family and community members from ones that believe in a strict non-violent stance to ones that believe in self-defense.


Some of us learned about the Deacons during the time that Rap Brown, also from Louisiana, was working with Howard University students.  Their stance did not surprise us, since many of us had the example of members of our own families who had always had guns, both for hunting and for protection.  

The Deacons had a relationship with other civil rights groups that advocated and practiced non-violence: the willingness of the Deacons to provide low-key armed guards facilitated the ability of groups such as the NAACP and CORE to stay, at least formally, within their own parameters of non-violence.[8] Although many local chapters felt it was necessary to maintain a level of security by either practicing self-defense as some CORE, SNCC, and NAACP local chapters did, the national level of all these organizations still maintained the idea of non-violence to achieve civil rights. Nonetheless,in some cases,their willingness to respond to violence with violence, led to tension between the Deacons and the nonviolent civil rights workers whom they sought to protect.

Organizations like SNCC, CORE, and SCLC all had major roles in exposing the brutal tactics that were being used against Black people in America, particularly to Southern Blacks. This was seen as crucial to getting legislation passed that would protect African-Americans from this oppression and help develop their status of equality in America. However, according to Lance Hill, author of, The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, "the hard truth is that these organizations produced few victories in their local projects in the Deep South—if success is measured by the ability to force changes in local government policy and create self-governing and sustainable local organizations that could survive when the national organizations departed...The Deacons’ campaigns frequently resulted in substantial and unprecedented victories at the local level, producing real power and self-sustaining organizations."[9] According to Hill, this is the true resistance that enforced civil rights in areas of the Deep South. Many times it was local (armed) communities that laid the foundation of equal opportunities for African-Americans. National organizations played their role of exposing the problems but it was local organizations and individuals who implemented these rights and were not fearful of reactionary Whites who wanted to keep segregation alive. Without these local organizations pushing for their rights, and many times, using self-defense tactics not much would have changed according to scholars like Hill.

An example of this type of force needed that made substantial change in the Deep South took place in early 1965. Black students picketing the local high school were confronted by hostile police and fire trucks with hoses. A car of four Deacons emerged and in view of the police calmly loaded their shotguns. The police ordered the fire truck to withdraw. This was the first time in the twentieth century, as Lance Hill observes, "an armed black organization had successfully used weapons go defend a lawful protest against an attack by law enforcement."[2] Another example as Hill writes is, "In Jonesboro, the Deacons made history when they compelled Louisiana governor John McKeithen to intervene in the city’s civil rights crisis and require a compromise with city leaders—the first capitulation to the civil rights movement by a Deep South governor."[10]

There are many black folks who are watching the governments response to groups like The Huttaree terrorists.  Hutaree militia arrests point to tripling of militias since 2008

The Hutaree is one of 127 armed militias in the US, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Ala., that tracks hate groups nationwide. That number has increased 200 percent since 2008, when there were 42, SPLC says.

There is "no question" the catalyst was President Obama’s election, says Heidi Beirich, the center’s director of research. A similar upswing took place after President Clinton’s election in 1993. Militias and the antigovernment groups that spawn them often become more active when the federal government turns more liberal. "A major shift to the left certainly helped" in both cases, Ms. Beirich says. The economic meltdown and the growth of minorities such as Latinos are also a factor, she adds.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a listing of  Active 'Patriot' Groups in the United States in 2009.  My county is on the list.

I support non-violence as a strategy.  I support self-defense as a stance.  
I live in a county in New York full of hunters.  Many of them are members of local white militia groups.  Quite a few support the Tea Party.  

Does this worry me – yes.

They state:

The Intelligence Project identified 512 "Patriot" groups that were active in 2009. Of these groups, 127 were militias, marked with an asterisk, and the remainder includes "common-law" courts, publishers, ministries and citizens' groups. Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the "New World Order," engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines. Listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist. The list was compiled from field reports, Patriot publications, the Internet, law enforcement sources and news reports. Groups are identified by the city, county or region where they are located.

Last Thursday I heard some of  the teapartier’s in my area talking about that same "New World Order".  Not particularly reassuring.

News stories like this one: Oklahoma conservatives, lawmakers plot anti-federal militia, increase my unease.

I will continue to counter protest peacefully in my community and speak out and organize against Republicans and racists who are hell bent on taking us back to 1860.  But I sleep with one eye open, troubled by the rising tide of hate.

And I think often of the 1960's and the Deacons.


Todays News by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor


We don't agree with all the blogger critics, but his critique of Black Media consolidation is right on. Industry Ear: CNN: A LEMON ON BLACK RADIO

Lemon’s CNN segment, asked the question if today’s radio personalities were Black America’s new civil rights leaders? WTF. I was amazed by the posturing of the piece and even more amazed by the softball line of questioning. Obviously, Don has spent a lot of time with his guest syndicated talker Michael Baisden and not say a Rickey Smiley to do a critical piece on Black radio.

The segment opened with a stop on the current 73 city Michael Baisden bus tour. Lemon and Baisden mentioned the great work that is occurring at each stop over the course of five months. One day in 73 cities over 5 months is exactly Black radio’s biggest problem!

The essence of Black radio has been lost by syndication. The 73 cities that Baisden serves use to have 73 afternoon shows that were tied to their communities. Local voices that shared local news and information. Mid term elections are near and over 300 urban cities are stifled with the same voices that include Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Baisden, Russ Parr and Rickey Smiley.

What CNN and Lemon failed to mention that no music format is syndicated more then Black radio. Black adults are 75 times more likely to hear the same music and host then there white counterparts. Then again stations that are geared to Black younger audiences are rarely syndicated but have no news and a music mix that screams "bitch" and "hoe" as often as Limbaugh screams "Obama". It seems like Black radio has a problem but then again why should I expect any media outlet to examine it.

Toronto Star: Pierre laments lack of African Americans in majors.

To honour Robinson on the anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, every player in the majors wore number 42 on Thursday. But on Jackie Robinson Day in Toronto, Pierre couldn’t help noticing a bitter irony: 50 Blue Jays and White Sox wore Robinson jerseys but only one other player, Vernon Wells, was African American.

Pierre isn’t assigning blame for the dwindling number of African American players in the majors, but he’s still not happy with the situation.

"It’s discouraging that we don’t see more blacks in baseball because of all we went through to play this game," said Pierre, who had a hit and a walk in Thursday’s 7-3 Blue Jays win.

New York Times: Call and Response on the State of the Black Church.

In the first decade of the American nation, a former slave turned itinerant minister by the name of Richard Allen found himself preaching to a growing number of blacks in Philadelphia. He came to both a religious and organizational revelation. "I saw the necessity," he later wrote, "of erecting a place of worship for the colored people."

Allen’s inspiration ultimately took the forms of Bethel African Church, founded in 1794, and the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, established in 1799. As much as it can be dated to anything, the emergence of a formal African-American Christianity can be dated to Allen’s twin creations.

Over more than two centuries since then, the Black Church has become a proper noun, a fixture, a seeming monolith in American society. Its presence is as prevalent as film clips of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech and contestants on "American Idol" indulging in the gospel style of melisma.

In the conventional wisdom that accompanied the popular imagery, the Black Church was regarded by insider and outsider, by ally and opponent, as a fount of progressive politics expressed through the prophetic tradition of Moses, Amos, Isaiah and Jesus.

Now a young scholar has taken a rhetorical wrecking ball to the monolith, and the reverberations are rippling through religious and academic circles of African-Americans. To mix the metaphor, the broader public has been allowed to eavesdrop on the theological equivalent of a black barbershop, a place of glorious disputation that is usually kept out of white earshot.

The debate took off in February when The Huffington Post published an essay by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. , a professor of religion at Princeton, under the deliberately provocative headline "The Black Church Is Dead."

50 years after they launched a movement that changed America, they see much more to be done. The Root: SNCC Veterans Retain the Old Fire

There is no more dramatic measure of the distance our society has traveled during the past half century than the fact that 50 years ago signing your name could be an act of extraordinary bravery.

In 1960, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C, even the most ordinary  acts could trigger a rejection, a beating, a jail sentence, or even a violent death-if  the actor was an African American daring to break  the color line that divided our nation into two zones, one black, one white, separate and decidedly unequal.

Wendell Paris remembers Mrs. Jones, an elderly Alabama woman who had lived under the yoke of segregation so long that when the time came for her to register to vote, "she was so nervous she could not sign her name."   Repeatedly, she would affix her signature to the form and then  anxiously erase it.  Finally, after weeks of indecision,  she signed her name and left it there.  She, as civil rights activists used to say, finally got a made up mind.

The triumph in Paris's voice as he recounts the story  reminds us that the revolution that we call the civil rights movement was  made up of thousands of little moments like that.  It succeeded because thousands and thousands of downtrodden people like Mrs. Jones finally got a made up mind.

It started out as good clean fun for black college students at HBCUs in the early ’80s. Then things went really, really wrong. Now it's making a comeback. The Root: Freaknic's Wild Ride

Freaknic.  Mention the name of the famous-some would say infamous-Atlanta spring break festival to those who attended, and you get a myriad of responses.  Some remember the early years of the 1980s, when students from HBCUs from throughout the Southeast could meet and fellowship during a four-day picnic. Others remember the ugliness that plagued the later years, when the city of Atlanta did all it could to discourage the festival.  Either way, Sharon Toomer, one of the Freaknic founders, has seen it all.

"It all started back in 1982 as a way for DC students in the AUC [Atlanta University Center] to have a picnic for spring break," said Sharon Toomer, who was a Spelman College student and member of the DC Metro Club at the time.

"A lot of us couldn't afford to go back home to DC, so we decided to have a picnic in Atlanta."

And thus began the first Freaknic, which was held at Atlanta's Piedmont Park, with about fifty students attending from the historically black AUC, comprised of Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown College and what is now known as Clark Atlanta University.

The name Freaknic was suggested by a DC Metro club member as a way to tie into the popular 1980s term "freak," which was being used in hit songs like Funkadelic's "(Not Just) Knee Deep (Freak of the Week)" and Chic's disco hit, "Le Freak."  Soon, students from HBCU schools as far flung as Tuskegee University in Alabama to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania were making their way to Atlanta to celebrate spring break.

And Freaknic filled a niche in the market, as most spring break destinations like Panama Beach, Daytona Beach, and Cancun, Mexico, were geared toward white college students.  There wasn't an exclusive place for African-American students to blow off a bit of steam before returning to the rigors of school.


The Root: A Bastion of Black Jobs Turns To Green

It's no surprise to anyone that the two-year-old recession has wreaked havoc on the black community. African Americans already had a higher jobless rate than Americans overall, and the downturn only deepened long-term trends in unemployment, with Black men hit especially hard.

Manufacturing, which has played a key role in building the black middle class since World War II, took an especially severe blow. The sector had already been losing jobs for years as automation allowed more productivity with fewer workers. The jobs remaining were among the first to go in this recession -- just over 2 million factory jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Over a two-year period starting in November 2007, sixteen percent of the manufacturing jobs lost belonged to blacks, according to the Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute. By comparison, blacks make up 11 percent of the American labor force.

Some manufacturers are turning to the burgeoning economy around clean and renewable energy in order to stay in business. The so-called "green" push, partly funded through the federal stimulus monies, could create thousands of manufacturing jobs, according to California-based advocacy group Apollo Alliance. It could also help propel a slow turnaround that can provide opportunities in distressed communities.


The Root: Sharpton Conference Spawns a Black Agenda

Lord knows various people have had the chutzpah to try to define and articulate a "black agenda". And they have generally fallen short, not only in that endeavor but also in executing what they do come up with.

Perhaps the most successful gathering of intellectuals, lawyers and policy makers took place in 1935 when the question was well defined: What do we do to improve the education of black children? Of course, back then the term was "negro." Some wanted to mobilize to demand more money for segregated (and inferior) public schools for blacks. Some wanted an assault on segregation and a demand that black kids attend the much better endowed white schools.  Participants ranged from Thurgood Marshall to Alain Locke to W. E. Du Bois.

The action plan, if you will, that ultimately won the day was the one championed by Marshall and the NAACP and culminated in victory with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.

As the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, told me after a ministers' luncheon Friday at the National Action Network annual meeting: "This conference is important at a moment like this because we are still confronted with major issues in the African American community, and in some ways they are more complicated than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Our coming together around shared struggle, sustained resistance and deep analysis - in some ways it takes more work."

In trying to tackle some of those "major issues," Tavis Smiley has been at it for years with his State of the Black Union summits that seem to draw from the same pool of leaders every year but which accomplish little. He held a pared-down version in March in Chicago, where the focus of 12 panelists was on pressuring President Obama to reward black support by explicitly addressing that elusive "black agenda".


Why do racists always begin their comments with "I'm not a racist BUT.."? New York Times: Voters’ Concerns on Immigration Spin British Campaign

Few people in the working-class neighborhood of Barking seem willing to proclaim unalloyed enthusiasm for the ultra-right-wing, anti-immigration British Nationalist Party. But get past "hello" in any conversation and their feelings come spilling out.

"I’m not a racist, but they’re letting so many of them in," complained Bill Greed, 66, speaking of foreigners. "They come and sign on for benefits. A lot of the children in schools don’t even speak English. There’s so many illegal ones that the government can’t even find all of them."

The B.N.P.? "I agree with what they’re saying, but not with how they go about it," Mr. Greed said.

As they prepare for the national election on May 6, Britons everywhere identify immigration as one of their biggest concerns. But in few places is the issue so urgent, or the electoral choices so stark, as in the borough of Barking and Dagenham, on the eastern edge of London. With little support for the Tory or Liberal Democratic Parties here, the race is between the unpopular ruling Labour Party and an emboldened B.N.P. capitalizing on its rival’s weaknesses.

Voices and Soul by Justice Putnam, Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Contributor

The Song which is America is harmonized by many diverse voices. Some
of those voices sing America from an unbridled joy deep within them;
while others sing America from the constant anguish brought by
generation after generation suffering under the manacle and the lash;
a sad refrain sung from that inner pain brought from the loss of
ancestry and Home. The melodies of both interweave and play a coda on
the landscape and the Soul of America.

It is on that landscape that the first faint strains of the Song that
is America became the forceful facet of an American Exceptionalism; a
certainty of purpose and an almost religious devotion to save those
not touched by our benevolence. It is the chorus singing that they
must be saved and it's for their own good. As when...

A Missionary Brings a Young Native to America

All day she heard the mad stampede of feet
Push by her in a thick unbroken haste.
A thousand unknown terrors of the street
Caught at her timid heart, and she could taste
The city of grit upon her tongue. She felt
A steel-spiked wave of brick and light submerge
Her mind in cold immensity. A belt
Of alien tenets choked the songs that surged
Within her when alone each night she knelt
At prayer. And as the moon grew large and white
Above the roof, afraid that she would scream
Aloud her young abandon to the night,
She mumbled Latin litanies and dream
Unholy dreams while waiting for the light.

-- Helene Johnson



We have two major announcements.

  1. We are thinking of moving "Black Kos, Week In Review" from Fridays at 9:00 AM EST to Fridays at 3:00 PM EST. This would free up any Friday conflicts with other diary series.
  1. I (dopper0189) would like to arrange a time to meet in an open thread to address any concerns with recent changes at Black Kos. I was going to write a diary on this subject, but didn't think I could avoid it becoming a "flame war". Looking for feed back on what time everyone would like to meet in an open thread this weekend? I have recently told a number of people to take their disagreements into open thread, so I would like to follow my own advice.


The Front Porch is now open.  Pull up a chair, sit down and chat with us for "a spell".  If you are new, or posting here for the first time, please introduce yourself.

Originally posted to Black Kos on Tue Apr 20, 2010 at 12:00 PM PDT.

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