Protecting a movement

Posted: June 10, 2008 in Remember

“Negroes With Guns”Dr. Michael S. Brown

The year was 1957. Monroe, N.C., 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. (more…)

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