The Civil Rights Struggle Of The 50’s And 60’s And Black Gun Ownership

by Richard Cameron

Nothing illustrates that black political opinion is not monolithic, better than questions having to do with social issues that have a moral framework or touch on civil liberties. It just so happens, that for a lot of blacks, the question of the 2nd Amendment and the right to own a firearm for self defense and other contingencies, are civil liberties issues.

The video you are about to see not only references this, but provides some other historical details that the gun control obsessed progressives are loath to include in all their ‘Black History Month’ vignettes.


But there is a compelling story of this tradition, which continues to resonate among blacks. Ida B. Wells, a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women, reflecting on the role of guns in community protection, particularly against lynchings – wrote, “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every Black home for the protection which the law refuses to give”.

Former Bush National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Condoleezza “CondiRice, has strong 2nd Amendment roots, as she explained on Larry King Live:

The way I come out of my own personal experience, in which in Birmingham, Ala., my father and his friends defended our community in 1962 and 1963 against White Knight Riders by going to the head of the community, the head of the cul-de-sac, and sitting there, armed. And so I’m very concerned about any abridgment of the Second Amendment.

A remarkable but unfortunately, under referenced judicial opinion from the pen of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, outlines why not all blacks believe that the NAACP and the Reverend Sharpton are representing their best interests:

“It was the ‘duty’ of white citizen ‘patrols to search negro houses and other suspected places for firearms.’ If they found any firearms, the patrols were to take the offending slave or free black ‘to the nearest justice of the peace’ whereupon he would be ‘severely punished.’ ” Never again, Thomas says. “Militias such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, the White Brotherhood, the Pale Faces and the ’76 Association spread terror among blacks. . . . The use of firearms for self-defense was often the only way black citizens could protect themselves from mob violence.”

Thomas also referenced Frederick Douglass – who should never be given short shrift in any study of the history of the struggle of blacks to achieve equality, “The black man has never had the right either to keep or bear arms,’ and that, until he does, ‘the work of the Abolitionists was not finished.”

It is important to note that in the post Civil War era, known to historians as “reconstruction”, politicians in the South, in this case, Democrats, responded to the obsessive fear of blacks with firearms, by enacting all manner of gun control laws called the “Black Codes” specifically targeting black gun ownership.

NPR interviewed Charles E. Cobb Jr. – former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary, who told them:

“I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would”.

Of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – the icon of the movement, Cobb recalls:

“when the Klan…bombed his house in 1956, he went to the sheriff’s office and applied for a gun permit to carry a concealed weapon. Now, he didn’t get the permit…but Martin King always acknowledged — if you read his writings — the right to self-defense, armed self-defense“.

Here’s the interview:

And the tradition continued into recent years.  We mustn’t forget Otis McDonald, the direct beneficiary of Justice Thomas’ opinion cited above.  McDonald was the central plaintiff in the landmark McDonald vs. Chicago Supreme Court case.

Otis, now in his 80s, and a Democrat at the time, merely wanted to take out a little deterrence in the form of a handgun after witnessing the frightening growth of crime and gang activity in his community in Chicago’s Morgan Park district, but the Democrat controlled city of Chicago doesn’t want blacks defending themselves. Said McDonald,

“I just got the feeling that I’m on my own. The fact is that so many people my age have worked hard all their life, getting a nice place for themselves to live in … and having one (handgun) would make us feel a lot more comfortable.”


McDonald’s home was broken into three times leading up to the decision to seek legal representation against the city.

My mother lives in Arizona, where all law abiding citizens, White, Black, Hispanic or Asian, have the right to own a firearm for self defense. Why is it that cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. prefer to take away that choice?

Otis McDonald deserves it every bit as much as my mother does, and with the help of the Second Amendment Foundation and Justice Thomas, now he can enjoy his Natural Law right to bear arms; although, it should be noted that these cities continue to opt to maintain the most restrictive ordinances possible that still narrowly fit within the confines of a court order.

My final tribute goes to 65 year old E.C. Robinson. You may have heard about this incident that was reported nationally a couple of years back, but if not, it is a good illustration of how relevant the fundamental right to bear arms is to the Black community.

Mr. Robinson, who was playing cards with his buddies at a Gary, Indiana senior hangout called the ‘Safe and Sound Social Club’, returned fire when an armed thug and another armed accomplice pulled their weapons and attempted to rob the patrons.

Mr. Robinson saved 3 other lives beside his own and critically wounded his assailant, making it relatively routine for Gary PD officers responding, to apprehend 23 year old Chicago resident, Kendell Reed. Oh, and there is a coincidence. How did Kendell Reed get a gun in a city that makes law abiding citizens jump through unbelievable hoops to own a self defense weapon legally?

As I’ve said numerous times, the most the police can do for you in the majority of circumstances,  is to place a chalk mark around your dead body, so they can photograph you and document the crime scene. In this and the last century, police don’t prevent violent crimes, they simply write reports and investigate them.  Colion Noir said essentially the same thing – and more authoritatively than I:                                                 

“No one wants to fight for their protection, they want the government to do it. The same government who at one point hosed us down with water, attacked us with dogs, wouldn’t allow us to eat at their restaurants and told us we couldn’t own guns. […] The only person responsible for your safety is you. Cops can’t always be there. Obama definitely can’t be there. Guy telling me to get rid of my guns when I need them the most, isn’t my friend, isn’t looking out for my best interests and doesn’t speak for me or the community that I’m part of.”

The evolving attitudes of crime weary black residents of the inner city, may be a small spark that catches fire and provides new allies in our fight against the opponents of natural law rights of gun ownership. I’m cautiously hopeful, but this is something we need to support and encourage.

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