I first heard of Deacons for Defense (the title of this post reflects their full name) via a movie by that name, which starred Forest Whittaker. (IMDB lists it as being made-for-TV, so I assume it was HBO or Bravo or the like.) I thought it was quite good. It dealt with the very real danger blacks in Louisiana and around the country faced as they fought for the their civil rights. While most of the Civil Rights movement had adopted non-violence, they were really dependent to a large extent on the Deacons to provide low-key, armed security.
One of my favorite descriptions of the Deacons comes from Gun Owners of America.
During a desegregation effort at the Jonesboro High School, the authorities brought up fire trucks and prepared to hose the black students attempting to enter the school. The Deacons pulled up and four men publicly loaded shotguns and then made it plain that the lead was for the firemen if they turned the hoses on. The firemen wisely beat a retreat.The Deacons first came to light in Jonesboro, Louisiana after the Chief of Police led a Ku Klux Klan motorcade through black neighborhoods. The Deacons informed the Chief that further incursions would be met with force. (A Klan motorcade was not a peaceful drive in the country. More like a multiple-car drive-by. Though sometimes the violence was just implied, it was still an instrument of terror.) The motorcades stopped after they met armed citizens defending their communities. After a group of Klansmen were fired upon when they set fire to a cross in a clergyman's yard, that also stopped. Jonesboro saw effective self-defense on another occasion.
This was a very significant event. This was a self-defense effort in the spirit of the American War for Independence. The government was attempting to exercise illegitimate power ... and it was repulsed by the use of community force -- by the militia, if you will.
The Deacons were in the great tradition of American freedom -- liberty is not given by tyrants and thugs, it is wrested from their hands by force.
When Deacon Elmo Jacobs was driving a carload of white civil rights workers, they were fired upon and took a load of buckshot in the door of Jacobs' car. Jacobs returned fire and the Klan attack ended immediately -- and for good.The bulk of the article from Gun Owners of America seems to be based on a piece of scholarship by Tulane University Professor Lance Hill. His book, The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement is published by the University of North Carolina Press.
Hill found one of the truths of gun control that the Left loves to sweep under the rug.
In Bogalusa, LA, Hill found that the police made no attempt to stop the attacks and in fact took pains to arrest blacks who had armed themselves in self defense. In other words, gun control was simply a tool of people control and had nothing to do with fighting crime. Had crime control been the concern, plenty of opportunities had come and gone to arrest the Klan.Furthermore, only when blacks actually defended themselves - shooting a white man at point blank range in the chest - did it become less likely that whites would attack. That shooting also forced the mobilization of the military and national guard to enforce desegregation. (After all, now whites were getting shot too!)
Dr. Condoleezza Rice Remembered that time, when growing up in “Bombingham, Alabama”
growing up in Bull Conner's Birmingham, Ala., when the shotgun wielded by her father was often the only thing that stood between her family and the Ku Klux Klan.This is why Dr. Rice does not support gun control.
Since this was taking place in the 1960s, the FBI got involved. They followed the Deacons from 1965 (shortly after it was founded) until 1972 when it became inactive. The FBI's web site on Freedom of Information Act inquiries has the available info - 1580 pages of information, memos, etc. [Hmm... the info seems to no longer be available on the FBI website. I will keep looking!] FBI agent Frank Hicks told blacks in Bogalusa, LA that any shooting would result in a murder charge.
He did not explain where the FBI had any legal or constitutional authority for such a move, but the Deacons were not interested in a scholarly debate. They simply told Hicks that self defense is a constitutional right. Hicks got the message.Self-defense is a human right.
The Left says "call the police and wait for help." But not that long ago, there were whole sections of the population that could expect nothing in the way of help from police. The police were part of the problem; either actively participating in Klan activities, or passively looking the other way while the Klan did as it pleased. Even today, not everyone can expect calling the police will bring help.
The civil rights movement always looked to Gandhi and India's non-violent revolution for inspiration. (They still do.) But the Left always misses one thing in this analogy. India was governed by the British aristocracy, and they cared how they looked to the world as reported by the press. Non-violence did not work with the Klan, because they did not care how they looked to East Coast liberals. They were perfectly willing to deal out violence to further their aims. The same was true of Nazi Germany. (Stalinist Russia didn't have to worry about the press - they were in its pocket.)
The Deacons for Defense and Justice did not plead to be given their rights. They did not beg to be taken seriously. They made sure they were taken seriously. They took action and fought for their rights, and they defended themselves, their families and their communities from oppression and violence.