The Civil Rights Movement is often seen as a movement limited to the 1950s and 60s but truly this was just a period of heightened public activity and publicity of the movement. The Movement informally began as soon as slavery began, which is an ancient institution. The Code of Hammurabi (1760 BCE) is the earliest known record of slavery and calls for punishment for assisting slaves to usurp their “masters,” so it is safe to assume slave rebellion was common even then as it’s natural and just for human beings to resist tyranny and enslavement. Slave rebellion in North America also began well before the creation of the American government. In 1526 African slaves rebelled in a South Carolinian colony established by the Spanish and escaped. Slaves originally weren’t exclusively black. They came from many nations. Ancient Egypt had many slave laws, as did the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece. Africans were kidnapped from their homeland in 650 A.D. and enslaved first by Arab nations (peoples of other origins, including Western Asia, Iberia, Sicily, and some other Arab nations were taken as slaves as well) and then by European nations and America. The European nations and America also enslaved millions of indigenous peoples of the Americas. So slavery and rebellion are ancient. The Civil Rights Movement also never truly ended. It is ongoing as minorities face many of the same challenges from the racist, fascist state today as they did in the 1950s and 60s. I think this aspect of American history deserves its own section in this book because it exemplifies how illegitimate, atrocious, deceptive, and immoral the government is, and which methods actually work to fight against it.
Many see the Civil Rights Movement as exclusively nonviolent but nonviolence was just one tactic used out of many. Nonviolence was only a way of life for a few. Nonviolent tactics can be useful in situations wherein violence would be immoral or result in greater harm to innocent people. But nonviolence as a way of life in a world dominated by violence and the threat of violence is naive and suicidal, bordering on apathetic. It is also dogmatic and rigid. The lines between violence and nonviolence are more indistinct than many would like to admit. Is defending yourself violence? Is carrying a gun violent, even if you don’t have to shoot it? Like any kind of dogma, many people who swear by nonviolence shy away from even owning guns. But their revulsion of violence isn’t a result of some greater evolution on their part but rather an impotence and an inability to adapt to a very violent world. If we lived in a completely peaceful world then nonviolence as a way of life would be fine, of course, but that’s not the world we live in.
What many staunch advocates of nonviolence don’t realize is that it is not nonviolence that makes progressive movements successful. It is resistance to systemic, institutionalized oppression, which can come in many forms, both nonviolent and violent, and everything in between. In his book This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed, historian and civil rights activist, Charles Cobb, explains “Many organizers saw nonviolence as a tactic and did not think it necessary to raise the issue unless it wTas tactically necessary.” (Cobb, Page 180.) Cobb further writes the “Montgomery bus boycott had nothing to do with an embrace of nonviolence as either a tactic or a philosophy rather, it reflected a decision, indeed, a determination, to fight city bus segregation – that is, to resist.” (Cobb, Page 152.) Similarly, Cobb writes that organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) “were not fertilized by nonviolence but by the idea of resistance and they were planted well before the organizations rose to prominence” (Cobb, Page 79.) Even these organizations weren’t always strictly nonviolent either. In Natchez Mississippi, for example, in 1964, SNCC organizers rented a shack exclusively to store guns and they stopped sponsoring seminars on nonviolence. CORE repealed the nonviolent clause from its constitution in 1966. White supremacists also adapted to these organizations’ nonviolent strategy. Realizing that activists’ pacifist response to white terror was what garnered public support, they instead beat and killed blacks and activists behind closed doors where there was no media to film them, making the nonviolent strategy completely untenable, defenseless, and ineffective.
Nonviolent tactics are written about more prolifically because they are more palatable to most moderate (primarily white) people. Most people don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty of history. They want to hear that passionate nonviolence and profound arguments won the hearts and minds of the rulers of the system or as NAACP’s Julian Bond put it critically that “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up and then white folks saw the light and saved the day.” But that’s not the truth. Slavery ended in this country because slave owners were forced to stop. The risks began to outweigh the rewards as more black men (and some whites) were arming themselves, joining the Union, leading slave rebellions, and rising up against slave owners. According to historian, Herbert Aptheker in Race and Democracy: A Reader, there were more than 250 slave rebellions between 1619 and 1865 in the US. But historians want to give all the credit to the white President, Abraham Lincoln, because that fits the traditional, statist narrative and it encourages more nonviolence, which the state prefers citizens practice. The more rough and tumble civil rights activists who practiced and advocated armed self-defense are often omitted from the historical record like Hartman Turbow, Stokely Carmichael, Ernest “Chilly Willy” Thomas, Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, C.O. Chinn, Robert Williams, Fannie Lou Hammer (who helped found the Freedom Farm Cooperative and once said“I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom and the first cracker even looks like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won’t write his mama again”), Amzie Moore, Annie Cooper, Annie “Mama Dolly” Raines, Huey Newton, Assata Shakur, Elridge Willie Steptoe, Jannie Brewer, Joseph Mallisham, Mae Mallory, Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard, Jim Evers and the Evers brothers, and others from previous generations like Fredrick Douglass, Gabriel Prosser, John Brown, Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner who led slave rebellions.
Anti-gun activists often worry that adding guns to any protest adds danger but historically and even today generally the opposite is true. “Going the legal route” via lobbying politicians on legislative efforts (like the Civil Rights Act) and voter registration often provoked even more violent responses. Just after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the summer of 1964 more than a dozen white supremacist bombings occurred in McComb Mississippi alone. Nonviolent protesters were and still are viewed as easy, defenseless targets and so they are often attacked. For example, on June 6 1966 James Meredith, the first African American to be enrolled at the University of Mississippi was shot by a sniper rifle while on a 220 mile nonviolent March Against Fear. As another example, on May 15, 1970 pigs in Jackson Mississippi opened fire on a dormitory housing students who had protested segregation. Bob Moses and Jimmy Travis, SNCC workers, were shot and nearly killed in Greenwood Mississippi just for registering blacks to vote. Cobb explains“The Freedom Rider bus in Anniston, Alabama was not firebombed because anyone thought it was smuggling weapons; hate and fear alone drove that attack, as they did the police-backed mob attacks against Freedom Riders in Birmingham and Montgomery.” (Cobb, page 241.) In New Orleans in 1866 at a Louisiana Constitutional Convention held at a Mechanics Institute to establish a new state government that would grant voting rights to blacks, two hundred, mostly unarmed, black Union veterans nonviolently marched to support the meeting and were attacked by whites (more than half of whom were Confederate veterans). 37 blacks were killed and 117 were injured. Reverend Jonathon W. Horton stood in the doorway of the Mechanics Institute, waving a white handkerchief and pleaded to police to stop firing as they were noncombatants, to which a policeman replied “We don’t want any prisoners. You have all got to die.” Immediately after which he was shot and killed. The only gains from this event were political. In the 1866 House of Representatives and Senate elections, Republicans (who at the time were more consistently pro-black) took 77% of the seats in Congress. However, this certainly wasn’t worth the senseless spilling of blood of nonviolent marchers.
Another example is the Orangeburg massacre. In response to a gathering of 200 peaceful protesters at South Carolina State University demonstrating against the racial segregation of a local bowling alley, the Governor of South Carolina at the time, Robert E. McNair, called in the National Guard. On February 8 1968, South Carolina Highway Patrol officers began open firing on the crowd. Three protesters were killed and 27 were injured mostly from gunshot wounds to the back inflicted as they ran away. All eight pigs who fired the shots were acquitted although thirty-six witnesses stated that they did not hear gunfire coming from the protesters on the campus before the shooting and no students were found to be carrying guns. The only person to serve prison time was civil rights activist Cleaveland Seller for “inciting a riot.” The lapdog media reported that protesters were “sniping” cops “with what sounded like ‘at least one automatic, a shotgun and other small caliber weapons’,” despite the fact that the protesters were unarmed.
Yet another example occurred after Fannie Lou Hammer of Sunflower County, Mississippi went to a court house with 17 others to peacefully register to vote and in response night-riders shot at the houses of registrants. Additionally, two young girls were arrested, Vivian Hillet and Marylene Burks. Charles Dourrough, Ruleville’s mayor and President of the white supremacist Citizen’s Council was there and ordered Charles Cobb arrested for “asking a lot of silly questions” and claimed to the media the whole shooting was a “fabricated incident” arranged by Bob Moses to show the political failings of the county.
As another example, on June 9 1964 hundreds of nonviolent demonstrators led by civil rights veteran, TY Rogers, gathered to march to the courthouse in defiance of police chief William Marable’s prohibition on marches. They were assaulted by police with cattle prods, nightsticks, teargas, and fists. After they fled into a Church, the police began chucking tear gas into the Church windows, driving them out. A year later in August of 1965, Episcopal minister Johnathon Daniels who visited Alabama for the Selma-to-Montgomery March entered a white-owned store to buy soft drinks. A deputy sheriff armed with a shotgun ordered them out and as they backed out the pig suddenly opened fire, killing Daniel and wounding Catholic priest, Father Richard Morrisroe. There are countless examples of nonviolent activists (and just plain innocent bystanders) getting killed beaten, or incarcerated than would fit in this book.
Many of the staunch advocates of nonviolence as a way of life have never actually been in a situation wherein their lives or other lives are in danger and during which they are confronted with the decision to use violence or not, so their “holier than thou,” sanctimonious, self-righteous attitude comes from a place of inexperience and relative good fortune, whereas those who are threatened regularly by the brutal violence and indignities inflicted by the state have to deal with the question head on everyday. Cobb explains in his book, “Any theoretical or philosophical arguments about their [nonviolent lifestyles] value- or at least, any arguments made by people in pulpits and classrooms who do not have to face the human consequences of their thoughts or of the actions they propose – is in the end an intellectual tea party, perhaps momentarily refreshing but only occasionally nourishing.” (Cobb, page 147.) Cobb further states “More and more, nonviolence seemed like a luxurious abstraction, an idea remote from the harsh reality in which organizers lived. They faced the threats and attacks on a daily basis and were under pressure from black people in the communities where they worked to support the practice – if not the underlying principle – of armed, self-defense absent any other reliable source of protection.” (Cobb, Page 203.) In an undated, unpublished manuscript, Christopher B Strain wrote, “There is an air that approximates latent racism and white chauvinism about these nonviolent moralists who cannot stand the thought of oppressed Afro-Americans defending themselves…[while they] are being raped, maimed, legally framed, murdered, starved, and driven into exile. What is more brutal? What is more violent?”
SNCC’s field secretary, Worth Long, essentially explains there is a false dichotomy between violence and nonviolence and used the term ‘unviolent’ as “a way to transcend the fundamentally false distinction between violence and nonviolence…Most people do not see themselves as being “nonviolent”…and most people would not consider themselves “violent”…they would treat both choices as potentially viable, and at any given time, which they would choose would depend on what they had concluded about their immediate circumstances. (Page 148) Worth Long, SNCC field secretary said “Now you can pray with them or pray for ’em, but if they kill you in the meantime you are not going to be an effective organizer.” Even Ivanhoe Donaldson, another SNCC field secretary and a staunch proponent of nonviolence explained “The civil rights movement was about civil rights, not about nonviolence. Nonviolence was a tool the movement used to create confrontation without hate, without force, without brutality. Yes, all the blood that was shed was ours, [but] we accepted that for the greater good–the mission–and that was not about nonviolence but about change. I didn’t go to Mississippi to celebrate nonviolence; I went down there to fight for the right to vote. (Cobb, page 162) In 1964 Robert P. Moses, director of the Mississippi Project of the SNCC noted: “It’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.”
Because of MLK’s dogmatic insistence that nonviolence be practiced exclusively, he alienated many fellow activists. MLK denounced the Deacons of Justice and Defense for what he called their “aggressive violence,” whereas Malcolm X criticized MLK as an “Uncle Tom” paid by whites to “teach the Negroes to be defenseless.” But after the bombing of MLK’s home on January 30, 1956, even he applied for a concealed carry permit, (which he was denied) and he had many guns at his house. He also wrote “As we have seen, the first public expression of disenchantment with nonviolence arose around the question of ‘self-defense.’ In a sense this is a false issue, for the right to defend one’s home and one’s person when attacked has been guaranteed through the ages by common law.” Perhaps his assassination was the ultimate example illustrating that preaching nonviolence is no safer and in many cases more dangerous than armed resistance and defense against government tyranny.
We shouldn’t forget that Native Americans also resisted the US government’s tyranny with arms and in many cases only received treaties and some recognition of land rights because of this. In 1994 Tougaloo professor and Wabanaki and Mohawk Native American and Civil Rights activist, John R. “Hunter Bear” Salter, recalled “I’m alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms.” Salter always traveled armed.
When people speak of gun laws or gun control today, they usually don’t understand the implication that they would have on society’s most vulnerable people or the meaning in the context of the history of gun control. America’s first gun laws were enacted to prevent black people from owning guns. The Virginia General Assembly in 1680 enacted a law that prohibited black social gatherings and black ownership of guns and even potential weapons punishable by twenty lashings with a whip. It also made it legal for anyone (civilian or otherwise) to kill runaway slaves. Formal, slave patrols were first established in 1704 in South Carolina and spread thereafter. (After the Civil War many of the slave patrollers joined the police force to enforce Jim Crow laws.) In 1723 an even harsher law was enacted in Virginia that called for any black person who “raised a hand” to a white person to be punished by thirty lashes in public. Amputation was also made a common punishment of blacks. In the case of Dred Scott in 1857 Chief Justice Roger Brooker Taney ruled constitutional rights could not be given to black people because “it would give to persons of the negro race…the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects; [the right] to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went…endangering the peace and safety of the state”
A Mississippi law of 1865 declared “no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service of the US government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her country, shall keep or carry fire-arms of any kind, or any ammunition…and it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition.” Cobb explains it is ironic that “today the issue of gun rights has largely come to be associated with the conservative white right, and far too often the concept of “standing one’s ground” is invoke to defend the murder of a black person. But there was a time when people on both sides of America’s racial divide embraced their right to self-protection, and when rights were won because of it. We would do well to remember that fact.” (Cobb, 237.) “White knight” proponents of gun control don’t face the same scale of police violence as blacks generally do, so to ask black and other vulnerable minorities to give up their rights to guns is essentially asking them to submit to white supremacy and all the horrors that come with it. Gun control today is framed much differently, of course. Today, gun control proponents argue for things like limits on the size of magazine capacity and outlawing civilian ownership of automatic weapons, but it makes no sense to limit magazine capacity or outlaw civilian ownership of automatic weapons when the far more dangerous and tyrannical government has a monopoly on both. No one taken seriously in politics or on a corporate news station ever talks about taking guns away from police or feds, yet they kill far and terrorize far more than any other segment of the population.i
Examples of Successful Armed Defense in the Civil Rights Movement
Many organizations and individuals in the Civil Rights Movement like the Deacons of Justice and Defense, Robert Williams’ Black Guard, the Monroe Defense Committee, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Black Panthers, and Joseph Mallisham’s secret unnamed organization made it their duty to stop the bloodshed of nonviolent protesters and other innocent blacks, and many of these armed defenders of nonviolent protesters didn’t even have to shoot. Their presence and willingness to fight back was enough to deter would-be attackers and they saved countless lives. Any other interpretation is contrary to the historical record. There are many examples of such successful armed defense of black activists that contradict the tired, old ‘nonviolent’ argument that guns make activists more like likely to be attacked. For example, in April 1964 KKK nightriders threw dynamite at the home of NAACP President Curtis Conway CC Bryant who quickly grabbed his rifle and drove off the terrorists. Further, when Walter White (who later headed the NAACP) was a boy in 1906 in the midst of white riots in Atlanta, he learned of a mob intending to invade his neighborhood and instead of cowering, his family and friends took guard at his home with guns and only a few warning shots scared the mob off his lawn. Another example can be found in Georgia’s history in August of 1899 when Henry Denegale was accused of raping a white woman. (This was a very common false accusation at that time used as an excuse to kill blacks.) Denegale turned himself in, despite his innocence, thinking he would be safest in jail. Denegale’s sons organized other blacks in the community who surrounded the jail to prevent him from being attacked. “Every time the Sheriff tried to move Denegale “for safekeeping,” his allies rang the bell of a nearby Church signaling that more armed men were needed to prevent his removal.” (Cobb.) Denegale was later found not guilty and released though the men who protected him were tried and convicted of “rioting.”
As another example, Joseph Mallisham of Tuscaloosa, a veteran and civil rights organizer, founded a secret self-defense organization in 1964. He called a group together consisting mostly of veterans to discuss armed defense and they decided to call another meeting of even “wider ranger of participants: factory workers, teachers, businessmen, and even young gang leaders.” (Cobb, page 220.) They created a self-defense organization with no name. The group provided protection for T.Y. Rogers, TCAC President, Willie Herzfeild, T.W. Linton, and many less well known people. For example, in July 1965 when a group of black teenagers attended the Druid movie theater in Tuscaloosa, a previously all-white theater that was forced to end its racist policy to comply with the recently passed Civil Rights Act, two hundred whites showed up and began chucking stones and bottles at them. The teens telephoned Mallisham who sent armed men in cars who escorted them back to the black community. When they reached their destination, hidden Klansmen began to open fire but Mallisham’s defenders shot back and the cowardly Klan fled. Klan violence in Tuscaloosa’s black community subsequently ended and police violence there slowed.
Another example of a successful armed defense of civil rights activists occurred in Decatur Mississippi in 1946 when black veterans, Medgar and Charles Evers attempted to vote and armed white men surrounded the courthouse in response. The Evers brothers fled, feeling it was not worth the fight and made their way home but they were followed by the armed whites who pulled out their weapons. In response the Evers revealed their own weapons and the Klan sped off. Medgar always traveled armed in Mississippi with a pistol by his side in the front seat and a rifle in the trunk.
In 1960 at the height of civil rights protests, Charles Johnson, a veteran noticed four white men waiting in their car in the parking lot of his apartment building. Believing they were there to ambush him, he contacted 3 other veterans to surround the vehicle from all sides with guns. Just the show of guns was enough to scare them off.
In another example of successful armed defense in 1965 after Hosie Miller, the father of Charles Sherrod’s wife, Shirley, was murdered, Shirley and a handful of others desegregated the local school. In response the KKK burned a cross on the Miller’s farmhouse. Shirley’s mother made some phone calls about the mob on her lawn and armed black farmers heeded the call and surrounded them. The Klan was allowed to flee only after one Klan raider begged for his life. In another example in August 1964, after four of Janie Brewer’s sons tried to register to vote at the courthouse in Sumner Mississippi, Klan members began circling the family’s farmhouse along with the Sheriff. But the Brewers were ready for them. SNCC workers had taken post in the fields with rifles and shotguns. Brewer then came out of her house with a lit Molotov cocktail in hand ready to throw at them. They promptly fled and never returned.
Many more examples of successful armed self-defense can be found in the history of the life of Robert Williams, NAACP Chairman of Monroe and surrounding Union County, NC who wrote extensively about armed self-defense and practiced it with his branch of the NAACP. He established the Monroe Rifle Club also called the Black Guard, which was full of black members. After a Klan rally on October 5, 1957, the heavily armed Klan rode to home of Dr. Albert T. Perry, NAACP member, WWII veteran, and President of the Union County Council on Human Relations. The Klan opened fire on Perry’s home, but the Black Guard shot it out with the Klan and drove them off. Williams later recalled “The Klan didn’t have the stomach for this type of fight. They stopped raiding out community.” Adding to the victory, KKK motorcades were banned by Monroe’s City Council the next day. Thurgood Marshall suggested the FBI investigate Williams and he was later expelled from the NAACP and exiled from the US in 1961 but he returned in 1969. After the 1959 acquittal of a white man who had assaulted a black woman, Williams said “In the future we are going to have to try and convict them on the spot. We cannot rely on the law. We can get no justice under the present system. If we feel that injustice is done, we must right then and there, on the spot, be prepared to inflict punishment on the people. Since the federal government will not bring a halt to lynching in the South, and since the so-called courts lynch our people legally, if it’s necessary to stop lynching with lynching, then we must be willing to resort to that method.”
Yet another example of successful armed defense occurred in 1965. When Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick of the Deacons of Justice lost his job at a local high school, students organized a boycott of the school in March 1965. Police called in a fire truck to spray the protesters and Thomas ordered the Deacons of Defense to take firing positions and prepare to fire on the police. He said “if you turn those water hoses on these kids there’s gonna be some blood out here today.” (Cobb, page 207.) The fire truck subsequently left. Another example occurred in New Orleans when two CORE organizers returning to New Orleans from Bogalusa were followed by the Klan and attacked. After escaping into a black-owned cafe, the two made phone calls pleading for help and armed black men began slipping in the back door in response and scared off the Klan. The CORE organizers were then escorted secretly to the home of Robert Hicks, a union leader who became President of the Bogalusa Civic and Voters League in 1965, which catalyzed the formation of a Bogalusa chapter of the Deacons.
As another example, in Monroe NC during an altercation with a farm owner, Bennie Montgomery, a black veteran, who worked for the farmer owner was killed and Bennie was sent to the gas chamber. After the Klan threatened to mutilate Bennie Montgomery’s dead body in 1947, a group of black veterans met in a barbershop owned by Booker T. Perry, another WWI veteran, and decided to protect Bennie’s body. When the Klan approached the funeral parlor, “three dozen rifles, including William’s carbine, were trained on the motorcade.” (Cobb, Page 109.) No one fired a shot but the Klan fled in fear. Years later Williams remarked “That was one of the first incidents that really started us to understanding that we had to resist, and that resistance could be effective if we resisted in groups, and if we resisted with guns.” (Cobb, Page 109)
Armed defense wasn’t always successful. The times when it failed were almost exclusively limited to instances of confrontation with police and feds. Because they have the law, the system, and generally public support all on their side, they can get away with just about anything. However, this is no reason to give up or submit to their tyranny. In many cases, civil rights activists felt it was better to die on their feet than live on their knees. To be evenhanded, some examples will be included here. One example occurred on February 25 1946 in Columbia Tennessee on East Eighth Street. James Stephenson and his mother Gladys argued with two employees of Castor-Knott Department Store over a radio and the shopkeeper demanded they leave and punched James in the back of the head. A scuffle ensued and James threw the shopkeeper through his window. Subsequently, James and his mother were arrested and ordered to pay a $150 fine for “disturbing the peace.” A crowd of whites gathered around the Maury Courthouse demanding the Stephensons be lynched. A group of veteran, black soldiers mobilized in response, to which Sheriff Underwood responded by asking the state to intervene. Hundreds of state police and National Guard members arrived who indiscriminately shot out windows, ripped up floors, and broke apart furniture in a supposed attempt to “find weapons.” They also stole cash and valuables.
Another example of an unsuccessful armed defense occurred on August 23 1917 in Houston Texas where Mrs. Sara Travers, a mother of five, heard gunfire outside her house and came to investigate. Two white policemen were outside, Lee Sparks and Rufe Daniels. Sparks began interrogating Travers and barged into her home without asking. Travers asked Sparks what he was looking for and he called her the n-word several times, slapped her, and arrested her. Private Alonzo Edwards, an MP, came to investigate and asked that Mrs. Travers be allowed to dress as she was only in her underwear and a slip. Sparks pistol whipped Edwards in response and arrested him. Then Corporal Charles W. Balitmore, another black soldier asked what happened and Sparks told him “I don’t report to no niggers” and again pistol whipped him. Corporal Baltimore then fled and the two fascist, racist police began shooting at him. He was found hiding under a bed and placed under arrest. In response to this police rampage, about 200 black soldiers gathered at Camp Logan military base. They had heard rumors Baltimore was shot and killed and that now a mob was coming for them. The soldiers stole guns from the camp and marched to the police station. As they passed through Houston’s all-white neighborhood, Brunner, whites attacked and the column defended themselves. A shootout ensued and 20 people were killed, two of whom were black troopers. The rest were five white policemen and 13 white civilians. One police car was riddled with 50 bullet holes. Martial law was declared and the Illinois National Guard arrested 163 of the soldiers. 54 were found guilty of murder, 41 of whom received life sentences and 13 were hung.
The Klan, the State, and the Reversal of the Democratic and Republican Platforms
As stated armed resistance was harder and often more deadly when employed against the state. Adding to the difficulties was the fact that the Klan and many police officers, feds, and politicians worked together hand-in-hand to exterminate, harass, beat, humiliate, torture, and incarcerate blacks and supporters of racial equality of other races. Some police, feds, and even politicians were, in fact, Klan members like democrat Theodore Bilbo. This trend continues even today. David Duke, for example, former American Nazi party member and Grand Wizard of the KKK, became a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989 where he served until 1992. In one much earlier example on March 13, 1869, the Arkansas General Assembly legitimized the Klan by making it a legal organization.
In November 1965 the KKK contacted Deputy Sheriff Earl Fisher of Washington County, Mississippi, claiming the Deacons of Defense and Justice and the Nation of Islam were teaming up to kill whites and hiding guns in graves in a cemetery. The Klan convinced the police to exhume the grave of an elderly black man but no guns were found. In an even more disturbing case in 1964, CORE members James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were handed over to the Klan by Neshoba County Mississippi deputy sheriff, Cecil Price, after arresting them for allegedly driving over the speed limit. They were then all murdered by the Klan likely with the knowledge of the Sheriff or perhaps at his request.
In Mississippi in the 1950s the Amite County chapter of the Klan was headed by the son of the Sheriff, Ira Jenkins who also raided an NAACP meeting with the Klan and stole the membership list in 1954. When Bob Moses brought two black people to register to vote in the town of Liberty, the cousin of the Amite Sheriff (whose son was the head of the local KKK) beat him with the butt-end of a knife. In July 1965 Jonesboro’s assistant police chief led a 50-car KKK caravan through the town’s black neighborhood. The caravan distributed pamphlets denouncing desegregation efforts and organizers as “outside agitators.” Cobb explains “In the 1960s Klansmen held multiple positions in city government in Bogalusa Louisiana and the Klan headquaters were [located] at the fire station across from city hall.” (Cobb, Page 208) Further, in 1956 Louisiana legislature passed aimed at destroying the NAACP. The law required the NAACP give the government a list of names and addresses of all NAACP members and officers to ensure that none of the members or parent corporations were affiliated with any “communist or subversive organization” defined by the House Un-American Activities Committee. When they refused, the state attorney general obtained an injunction prohibiting the NAACP from doing any business or acting as a corporation in Louisiana. As another example “In 1959 in Monroe the county of seat of Union County, NC, a white man escaped conviction for assaulting an eight-months-pregnant black woman.” (Cobb, Page 129) In 1965 in Lowndes County Alabama, a town with a primarily black population, only one black person was registered to vote. Due to the efforts of the Lowndes Couny Freedom Organization just one year later there were 2000 black registered voters in Lowndes. John Hardy brought two potential registrants to the courthouse in Tylertown. The clerk told him he was not registering voters that day and when Hardy asked him why, the clerk began pistol whipping him. Hardy staggered bleeding into the street and was arrested for “disturbing the peace.”
Klan and state collusion wasn’t just limited to one political party. The Klan truly embodies the historical position of both parties and the spirit of American government built on slavery of blacks, the backs of other minorities, and on the genocide and stolen land of Native Americans. Despite all the rhetoric from the democratic party about its “concern for minorities” and its attempts to paint itself as the champion or “savior” of the underclass, Charles Cobb explains the democratic party was originally the “party of succession, segregation, and the Confederacy.” (Cobb, page 44.) And it was the Republican Union, (which 1/5 of all adult, black males in America joined) that fought against the slave owning Democratic Confederacy. In fact, the democratic party held white only primaries in Texas until 1944 when they were ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme Court. Further, the symbol of Alabama Democratic party was a white rooster with the slogan “White supremacy for the right.”
This only began to change in the 1936 election when black voters began to leave the republican party to vote for FDR. Senator Ellison Durant Smith of South Carolina walked out of the Democratic Party National convention, declaring, “The doors of the white man’s party have been thrown open to snare the Negro vote in the North.” As a result in 1948 the “State’s Rights Democratic Party” also called the “Dixiecrats” was formed. (“State’s rights” was a euphemism then for white supremacy and Dixie is a historical term for the South.) The dixiecrats opposed integration and wanted to bring back Jim Crow laws. In 1948 the entire Mississippi delegation and half of the Alabama delegation walked out on a speech by Hubert Humphrey who called for a greater commitment to Civil Rights. Most of the more liberal, leftist Civil Rights supporters of the democratic party didn’t leave but in 1964 southern whites “fled to the Republican party in overwhelming numbers” (Cobb, page 61), effectively reversing the legacy of the two parties. This was likely aided by the mass migration of blacks from the south to the north beginning in 1910.
Prominent examples of virulent racist democrats include the aforementioned, openly racist democratic senator and KKK member, Theodore Bilbo, who in 1946 said to a townsquare during his campaign “The best way to keep a nigger from the polls on election day is to visit him the night before,” meaning intimidate, beat, or kill him or her. This kind of statement was typical from him. Democrat of the House of Representatives, Eugene Hurst, is another example. Hurst killed NAACP leader, Herbert Lee in broad daylight in 1961 when he was attempting to register blacks to vote. Louis Allen, a black witness, was willing to testify and met with representatives of the FBI and Civil Rights Commission to see if he could receive federal protection if he were to testify but he was told by the Justice Department they could not offer him protection and he was killed in front of his house after a year of harassment, job loss, beatings, and incarceration. Investigations since 1994 have suggested that Allen was murdered by Daniel Jones, the Amite County sheriff, but no one has been prosecuted for his murder. Similarly, in 1919 Mississippi senator and democrat, John Sharp Williams endorsed lynching and said “Race is greater than law now and then and protection of [white] women transcends all law, human and divine.” “Protection of white women” often meant killing any black person for having any kind of association with a white woman. For example, Willie Tingle was murdered by whites for allegedly “looking at a white woman in the wrong way,” also called “reckless eyeballing” by some whites at the time. Tingel was dragged through the streets attached to a pick up truck and hung from a tree where he was used for target practice. As another example, in 1958 in Monroe NC a six-year-old white girl, Sissy Marcus, kissed a seven-year-old black boy, David Simpson, while nine-year-old black boy, James Hanover Thompson stood by. The two black boys were subsequently arrested for molestation. In another more gruesome example, in 1933 when a Columbia grant jury refused to indict a black teenager on charges of molesting a white girl and a mob took him from jail, hung him, and burned his body. Emmett Louis Till was lynched in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman and the brother of one of the killers was S.D. Milam, Ruleville’s constable.
Immediately after entering office, Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson (who was elected in large part due to the efforts of black organizers) segregated Washington DC by race and dismissed many black government employees. Even many revered democrats like JFK and RFK had some racist tendencies. The Kennedy administration was hostile to the freedom riders and felt they threatened their domestic policies and embarrassed the state, so they pressured student activists to abandon direct actions and instead work on voter registration. In a May 24 1963, meeting at RFK’s apartment with various civil rights activists arranged by James Baldwin, Kennedy argued with CORE activist, Jerome Smith. He later said of the group “They seemed possessed” and he ordered the FBI to increase surveillance of Baldwin and others in the group according to historian Arthur Schlesinger. Democratic Further, President, Lyndon B. Johnson, despite signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his “Great Society” programs into law, ruthlessly resisted the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s delegation at the Democratic National Convention and threatened delegates with the potential loss of federal appointments.
A rational, moral person might wonder how the government has been able to get away with these human rights violations for so long and why they continue to get away with murdering and incarcerating innocent minorities and other vulnerable people of society. Why did common people allow it and why do we continue to allow it? The answer lies primarily in state propaganda. Many working, financially poor white people were brainwashed to think that minorities are inferior, despite sharing many of the same struggles. It’s important to remember slaves in America weren’t just black (although they were primarily). They belonged to various races who were generally called “indentured servants” or “non-Christians” rather than slaves. Due to rebellions like Nathaniel Bacon’s of 1676 among indentured servants (slaves) of various races, laws were established like the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 that invented the concept of “white people” distinct from black slaves in an attempt to kill underclass unity and collaboration among various races. Charles Cobb explains “in the aftermath of the Bacon’s Rebellion, the notion of race as we know it now began to take shape. Formalizing the idea that blacks were inferior just because they were black was easy to do; they looked different. So not only did the laws establish slavery based on the premise of Africans being an inferior race, but “white people” were invented as a collective description of disparate European colonists who had traditionally been defined by their national identities – for instance, Punch’s co-defendants Victor (“a Dutchman) and Gregory (“a Scotchman”) [two indentured servants convicted of running away]. For the purpose of social control, the Virginia Colony’s rulers -”Englishmen” – began emphasizing a new, “white” racial identity that encompassed more than those of Anglo-Saxon Protestant heritage. Even “wild” Irish Catholics were included.” (Cobb, Page 30.) “African slavery stabilized their ability to extract tobacco wealth from the colony while giving even the poorest, most exploited “white” an illusory sense of having a piece of the new American pie.” (Cobb, Page 31.) This was the elite’s way of deceiving financially poor white people into thinking that they had more in common with rich whites in positions of great power than they did with poor blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities, so that they would support their own exploitation and that trend continues today. It is the reason why Trump has support and why armed resistance remains so important today. Demagoguery and jingoism still appeal to the brainwashed masses. Immigrants and other minorities are blamed for the government’s evildoing and most people buy it because they are easier targets than the ruling class mandarins pulling the strings.
The bootlicking, obsequious, corporate media was and is also responsible for much of the trend of jingoism, demonization of minorities, and the perception that whites are “superior.” For example, when in 1954 in Yazoo City Mississippi, 53 people signed a petition for school desegregation, the Citizen’s Council arranged for the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all 53 to be published in a local newspaper. All those listed were fired from their jobs and had their credit cut off. When a similar petition was written up in Clarksdale, the same occurred in the Clarksdale Press Register with the editorial comment “These people are the agitators and troublemakers.” In Belzoni, when Reverend George Lee who had organized an NAACP branch was shot to death driving home, Sheriff Ike Shelton suggested Lee lost control of his car and that the lead pellets might be “teeth fillings,” and The Jackson Clarion-Ledger‘s story on the murder reported the same and was entitled “Negro Leader Dies in Odd Accident.” Even more disturbing was spectacle lynching supported by local newspapers. Cobb explains “Spectacle lynching was common in the first four decades of the 20th century. Newspapers sometimes gave advance notice of hangings and burnings as public events for whites, and even brought children to watch.” (Cobb, page 123) “Body parts were often sold or given away as souvenirs afterward.” (Cobb, page 267)
One other common concern of nonviolent activists is that violence will scare the public and alienate the activists. But most Americans are just plain stupid drones. What they think doesn’t matter. The only way most will change their opinions is when the propaganda the state, corporations, the corporate media, and the Church churn out ceases, and that will only occur when people are willing to fight these institutions by any means necessary. As today’s police and feds have only become more militarized, fighting back is often seen as suicide. But the same lessons apply. Racist police, feds, and Klan members want to exterminate minorities but they don’t want to die doing it. When there is any sign of danger or resistance, they often skirt off or call for back up, (in which case it can make more sense to flee, depending on the numbers). The fact that the state and its minions are better equipped than ever is no reason to cease resisting. In fact, it only makes armed resistance all the more vital. It is incredibly naive to believe that one can win the hearts and minds of these bigoted, primitive savages that have less intellect and sensitivity than apes. You can try but carry a weapon when you do in case they decide they’ve heard enough and it’s time to apply their own methods of “persuasion.” Yes, the state is far better equipped and trained in warfare, but we outnumber them and through efforts to convert them to our side, many will leave their fascist positions and come to our side and give up intel, and we can beat the rest with our own weapons and destroy their weapons and infrastructure. No significant changes will ever come from the government. Nonviolent resistance alone will only result in the consolidation of the state’s power, so we have to make change for ourselves and organize voluntarily from the ground up with a new vision for the world.