February 08, 2010

How the Right to Arms Saved the Non-Violent Civil Rights Protesters

David Kopel links to a 1994 column by civil rights activist John R. Salter:
I was beaten and arrested many times and hospitalized twice. This happened to many, many people in the movement. No one knows what kind of massive racist retaliation would have been directed against grassroots black people had the black community not had a healthy measure of firearms within it.

When the campus of Tougaloo College was fired on by KKK-type racial night-riders, my home was shot up and a bullet missed my infant daughter by inches. We received no help from the Justice Department and we guarded our campus -- faculty and students together -- on that and subsequent occasions. We let this be known. The racist attacks slackened considerably. Night-riders are cowardly people -- in any time and place -- and they take advantage of fear and weakness.

Later, I worked for years in the Deep South as a full-time civil rights organizer. Like a martyred friend of mine, NAACP staffer Medgar W. Evers, I, too, was on many Klan death lists and I, too, traveled armed: a .38 special Smith and Wesson revolver and a 44/40 Winchester carbine.

The knowledge that I had these weapons and was willing to use them kept enemies at bay. Years later, in a changed Mississippi, this was confirmed by a former prominent leader of the White Knights of the KKK when we had an interesting dinner together at Jackson.

RELATED: David Kopel writing for Reason on the Klan's favorite law: gun control.

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