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Guns and the Civil Rights movement sound like total opposites because we have always heard about the movement being a non-violent one. In hindsight, the reality is guns played a critical role in African Americans defending themselves during the Civil Rights movment.

Journalist, professor, and former activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Charles E. Cobb joined Roland Martin on “NewsOne Now” to talk about his book, “This Non-Violent Stuff Will Get You Killed.”

Cobb told Martin, most of the Civil Rights movement took place in the rural South, where “guns are a part of the culture.”

“People used guns to go hunting, used guns to keep varmints out of the garden,” said Cobb.


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In many instances people that lived in the rural areas of the South were far away from police and the “police were all hostile.” Cobb said, “The sherifs departments, the police departments in these itty-bitty towns and counties were hostile.”

He added, Black people are human beings and “they’re going to respond to terrorism, or violence directed at friends, family or community in a way anybody would. So the local people in many of these communities would say, ‘look we know that y’all are non-violent but we’re not going to let these White people kill you.”

The Deacons for Defense and Justice were organized for that purpose. Cobb highlighted that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was protected by an unnamed group of armed African Americans.

The former SNCC activist shared with Martin in the five years that he spent in the rural South, he did not stay in a house that was without some sort firearm. “Individuals used them to drive nightriders away and keep us alive.”

Listen to Martin and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. discuss his book, “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible” in the audio clip below and share your thoughts about being Black and armed in today’s fight social justice. Do you think young activists should organize an armed group of individuals for the sole purpose of protection?

Be sure to watch “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin, weekdays at 9 a.m. EST on TV One.

 Subscribe to the “NewsOne Now” Audio Podcast on iTunes.

Black And Armed: Author Explains How Guns Made The Civil Rights Movement Possible  was originally published on