[sixties-l] Negroes with guns (fwd)

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Date: Mon Jan 07 2002 - 21:46:06 EST

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    Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 17:56:16 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Negroes with guns

    Negroes with guns


    By Dr. Michael S. Brown
    January 7, 2002

    The year was 1957. Monroe, North Carolina, was a rigidly segregated town
    where all levels of white society and government were dedicated to
    preserving the racial status quo. Blacks who dared to speak out were
    subject to brutal, sadistic violence.
    It was common practice for convoys of Ku Klux Klan members to drive through
    black neighborhoods shooting in all directions. A black physician who owned
    a nice brick house on a main road was a frequent target of racist anger. In
    the summer of 1957, a Klan motorcade sent to attack the house was met by a
    disciplined volley of rifle fire from a group of black veterans and NRA
    members led by civil rights activist Robert F. Williams.
    Using military-surplus rifles from behind sandbag fortifications, the small
    band of freedom fighters drove off the larger force of Klansmen with no
    casualties reported on either side.
    Williams, a former Marine who volunteered to lead the Monroe chapter of the
    NAACP and founded a 60-member, NRA-chartered rifle club, described the
    battle in his 1962 book, "Negroes With Guns," which was reprinted in 1998
    by Wayne State University Press.
    According to Williams, the Monroe group owed its survival in the face of
    vicious violence to the fact that they were armed. In several cases, police
    officials who normally ignored or encouraged Klan violence took steps to
    prevent whites from attacking armed blacks. In other cases, fanatical
    racists suddenly turned into cowards when they realized their intended
    victims were armed.
    Oddly, it appears that the organized armed blacks of Monroe never shot any
    of their tormentors. The simple existence of guns in the hands of men who
    were willing to use them prevented greater violence.
    It is important to note that the guns were not used offensively. They were
    part of an overall strategy that relied primarily on peaceful protest like
    picketing or entering whites-only establishments. Williams demonstrated
    that the dignified and responsible use of firearms for self-defense was an
    important method to achieve justice for those denied fair treatment by all
    institutions of government.
    The civil rights movement was deeply divided between those who espoused a
    pacifist, non-violent approach and those who believed that human beings had
    a right and a duty to use force in self-defense. Williams was the most
    influential leader of the self-defense wing of the movement.
    His effort to provide guns and training to African-American civil rights
    supporters was alarming to white politicians. Most state gun control laws,
    not just in the South, were blatantly designed to keep guns out of the
    hands of blacks and other minorities. Those with racist beliefs were not
    pleased when blacks claimed the right to keep and bear arms that is
    guaranteed to all Americans.
    The connection with the NRA might surprise some people who portray the
    organization as a haven for racist rednecks. Former NRA Executive Director
    Tanya Metaksa spoke with Williams before his death. She recalls, "He was
    very proud of being an NRA member and that the NRA sanctioned his club
    without question."
    The civil rights organizations of today bear little resemblance to the
    deadly serious armed activists of Monroe. African-American leaders
    generally support the liberal white line that guns are evil and have no
    place in modern society.
    On the other hand, small numbers of responsible black gun owners continue
    to honor their heritage by practicing their marksmanship and joining gun
    rights organizations. The tradition of the black gun club still lives on in
    the Tenth Cavalry Gun club, led by Ken Blanchard in Prince Georges County,
    While researching this column, I contacted Don Kates, a civil rights
    attorney who went to North Carolina in 1963 to participate in the movement.
    I asked if he ever carried a gun during those days and he responded with a
    list of a half-dozen that were always within reach. Kates also suggested
    that I read a letter written by an old friend of his from those days, John
    R. Salter, Jr., who is now Professor Emeritus at the University of North
    Dakota. Here are two brief quotes:
    "In the early 1960's, I taught at Tougaloo College, a black school in
    Jackson, Mississippi. I was a member of the statewide board of the NAACP
    and was Chairman of the Jackson Movement. No one knows what kind of massive
    racist retaliation would have been directed at grass-roots black people had
    the black community not had a healthy measure of firearms within it."
    "During most of the 1960's I did civil rights work in various parts of the
    South and almost always had with me a .38 special Smith and Wesson
    2-inch-barrel revolver - what you would now erroneously call a "Saturday
    Night Special."
    In 1962 the Monroe freedom fighters were overwhelmed by a huge mob that
    converged on the town. The Justice Department and the state police ignored
    calls for help. The rabid racists were aided by law enforcement who branded
    Williams a communist and a dangerous schizophrenic.
    Rob Williams eluded an FBI manhunt and fled to Cuba, which he erroneously
    believed to be totally free of racism. Within five years he realized that
    Cuba was not as he had imagined and moved on to China. There he was treated
    as a celebrity and returned to the United States in 1969 with the quiet
    blessing of Richard Nixon.
    Williams worked as a China scholar at the University of Michigan and
    reportedly advised Henry Kissinger on Chinese affairs. He died in 1996.
    Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist and member of Doctors for Sensible
    Gun Laws, www.dsgl.org. He may be reached at rkba2000@yahoo.com

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