Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja's We Will Shoot Back (p. 197)
Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

The days in the United States may seem dark indeed but with Trump in power and the authoritarianism will increase from its current murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of US history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. [3] From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by Anti-Federalists, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even free Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. [4] Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole. [5]

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [6] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment. [7] Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. [8] Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” [9] Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, seen then limiting a practice of criminals. Then, by the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [10] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the United States). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was recently Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. [11] Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt. [12]

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [13] I’m not sure why it is sad to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of US history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! [14] At the same time, during the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, denying Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and saying that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress, guns was part of the reason cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court, for this decision. [15]

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [16] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” [17] Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. [18] With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war. [19] 

But, the victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [20] It was then that “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” [21] These vigilante enforcers took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs arguably. [22] Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.” [23]

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, in the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this is incorrect, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and/or a form of social control. [24] Still, such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.” [25]

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Americans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed racism to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [26] Once again, this did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” [27] Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century. [28]

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [29] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Americans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought (likely not in reality), as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Americans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home
Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Americans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [30] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923). [31]

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “the forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [32] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” [33] While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). [34] Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” [35] Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, showing that it was not the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers” that it is today. [36]

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party (CP) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [37] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” [38] With the CP’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935. [39]

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.”[40] This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [41] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. However, he was not the first one.

In 1954, those in the NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only two members. [42] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. [43] In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [44] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” [45]

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. [46]

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [47] Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. [48] The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. [49] Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” [50] Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” [51]

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.
Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized mainly in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [52] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. [53] Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed. [54]

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, American apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [55] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” [56] Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense. [57] This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.” [58]

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [59] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. [60] Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. [61] Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites. [62]

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [63] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), which had supposed “rigid Marxism,” was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism, as opposed to anti-revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. [64] While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism. [65]

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the United States were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [66] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.” [67]

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [68] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. [69] Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Iconic Ebony picture, in 1964, of Malcolm x with gun
Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all who would have an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [70] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. [71] Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [72] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [73] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. [74] It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail so they such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution.” [75] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. [76] Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun would be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns.” [77]

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967
Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [78] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. [79] On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them as comrades, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” [80] On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles, a true statement of “intersectionality”:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.” [81]

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation, a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [82] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. [83] Of course, the NRA supported this law and other gun control in the 1960s.

The following year, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [84] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control yet again. [85]

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [86] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA
A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [87] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [88] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” [89] Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” [90] In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” [91] They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.” [92]

The commission was not alone in these remarks. Wacked out general Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [93] Adding to this, he said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. [94] Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider. [95]

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [96] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out of the way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. [97] He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in US cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it. [98]

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [99] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” [100] One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was embraced by those such as the BPP. [101] In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation. [102]

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known
Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [103] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” [104] As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, not surprisingly. [105] The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.” [106]

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, a communist group, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [107] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” [108] In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [109] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. [110] This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. [111] In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” [112] In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more authoritarianism, a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U.S. “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.” [113]

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC
Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [114] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. [114] One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. [115] As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions. [116]

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [117] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often engaged in by White individuals with not as much emphasis on actions by people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I was aiming to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with over 117 footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words (over 8,600 not including footnotes), and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even with this, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject, so no one needs to get on my case about that in any way whatsoever. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in US society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses. As always, I look forward to your comments on this important subject.

Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13.

[8] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[12] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[14] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[19] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[21] Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[24] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[25] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[27] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[30] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis.

[31] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[34] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[35] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[37] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Glossary of People: Ro,” see the entry for “Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976),” Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[41] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[42] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[43] Noted by examining the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina.

[44] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315].

[45] PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[46] This reality should surprise no one and it shows that both Mable and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

[47] Seems evident from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced.

[48] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[50] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[51] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[52] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question.

[54] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; “Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.””

[58] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[61] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[62] “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[63]  Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016. Also noted in a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[66] Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[67] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[68] Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[69] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[70] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man.

[71] Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[72] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[73] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[74] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[75] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[76] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[79] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[80] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[81] Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[82] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[83] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[84] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[85] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[86] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[87] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[88] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017. McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism.

[89] National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.”

[90] Ibid, 3.

[91] Ibid, 4-5, 8.

[92] Ibid, 11-12.

[93] Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18.

[94] Clark, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[95] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64.

[96] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[97] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[98] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[99] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[100] “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[101] Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[102] The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[103] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74.

[104] “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[105] “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[106] Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[107] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[110] “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[111] Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[112] Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[113] “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[114] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[117] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

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8 thoughts on “Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

    1. Well, I think the name in the application was not the “Armed Black Self-Defense” club, but the Monroe, NC gun club or something like that. So, they may have not investigated it further, no.

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