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Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms Paperback – January 14, 2014
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—Adam Winkler, professor of law, UCLA School of Law, author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America
“With Negroes and the Gun, Nicholas Johnson has provided a definitive and compelling history of the importance of arms for a people who have not been able to rely on the state for protection. This is must-reading for those who are interested in the history of race in America and in the enduring controversy over the right to bear arms.”
—Robert J. Cottrol, Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and professor of history and sociology, the George Washington University, and author of The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere
“Race has always been part of the unspoken motive for gun control in the United States. Johnson provides the best, most thorough history of the topic, telling the story mainly from the perspective and voices of blacks themselves. Shattering the myth of black passivity in the face of violent racism, the book is full of inspiring stories of genuine American heroes—some of them famous and many who were not—who used their Second Amendment rights to defend the civil rights of their people. Never shying away from the hardest questions, Johnson addresses the moral and practical complexities of armed self-defense, past and present. A major contribution to cultural studies and to the history of race in America.”
—David B. Kopel, research director, Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado
“Johnson opens a window on the increasingly airless and ever more heated dispute over the Second Amendment by examining blacks’ ambiguous relationship with guns over the centuries. He demonstrates that the right to armed self-defense was critical to saving black lives and livelihoods when confronted by violent hostility. This remarkable book remembers for us a long-forgotten, or possibly selectively forgotten, black tradition of arms—one too often overlooked in current debates over civil rights and gun legislation.”
—Alexander Rose, author of American Rifle: A Biography
“A fascinating and subtle history of the black tradition of armed self-defense. Carefully weaving social with political history from slave times to the present, Johnson explores the complex relation between this legitimate tradition and the occasional fruitless temptation of armed political resistance to oppression. He concludes with a strong argument for restoring the legitimate tradition even in the face of its rejection by the black political establishment and the inescapable reality that blacks are very disproportionately found among the perpetrators and victims of gun violence today. Provocative and illuminating.”
—Nelson Lund, University Professor, George Mason University School of Law
About the Author
More About the Author
His papers are available at this link
Top Customer Reviews
I love the picture of Harriet Tubman one of the "conductors" of the underground railroad which helped enslaved Africans get to Canada (primarily) standing with a rifle. People claim she never used the rifle she was always pictured with, however the woman scouted for the Union army invading the south.
This book appears to mainly for liberals, progressives and those active in, or study about the Civil Rights struggle, thus its language is in their nomenclature. It is a useful book for conservatives to read and understand for discussion with liberals, progressives and people who have a deep respect for the civil rights era. The history of the fight against slavery and the civil rights struggle has been modified and right of self-defense, political violence has been minimized. The truth is (as you would expect) there were people who used violence and there were many more people who used non-violence. Both were useful at times and under difference circumstances.
"The True Remedy for the Fugitive Slave Bill is a good revolver, a steady hand, and a determination to shoot down any man attempting to kidnap." - Frederick Douglass, 1854
I doubt this book will be given much attention at most colleges but I hope it will. Everyone might not respect your ethnic heritage but everyone respects a gun.
I would like to thank Professor Johnson for writing this much needed and eye opening book which tells our stories as Americans of African descent.
This book has historical accounts of Black people using guns to protect themselves from racist mobs & such. Not surprisingly the 1st gun controls (dating back to colonial times) limit the rights people of color to bear arms- after all, it’s easier to control & terrorize a group of people if they can’t protect themselves. Sadly, this is largely forgotten today esp. among Black Americans who often support gun control despite the fact that areas with the strictest gun laws have the highest rates of homicide from them since all the laws is encourage a Black market for them.
Overall, this is a great read. A real page turner. This is great book for either Black History or for a the study on the 2nd Amendment.
Significantly, the author attributes the demise of the Tradition largely to the ascendancy of Black politicians. The dis-empowered vs. the empowered have always had a love vs. hate relationship to arms. Arms possession by the commoner implied the threat of disorder (as well as the order of self-defense). Once Black politicians secured control of municipal power they faced the same threat of disorder that their white predecessors struggled with. Snuffing out the Tradition became an important tactic in the attempt to maintain control.
Overcoming the history, oral and recorded, of the Tradition was a significant accomplishment. We might wonder how it was accomplished. It's achievement was largely based on overlaying the carefully-restrained Tradition of arms exclusively for self-defense with the legitimate history of Non-Violance. The prominence of the latter buried the former. Yet, the story that remains falls short of a full history.
The reader is left with a legitimate question: Would the velvet glove of Non-Violance have achieved the Civil Rights revolution had it not contained an iron fist not-so-completely hidden within? Did the possibility of a TWO-way shooting war play an important role in compelling Washington to finally intervene in the social affairs of the South?
Is the Civil Rights revolution a legitimate successor to the history of the common man rising up to challenge the crown? Does it follow in the footsteps of the British Glorious Revolution and the American war for independence?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Intriguing history, well researched and well-written. It seems that guns may have contributed to the cessation of lynchings. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Art
This is an important book, and one well worth study. African-Americans in the USA have had a long history of bearing arms in this country, especially in self-defense where racism... Read morePublished 10 months ago by K. Morris
The author is pretty clearly pro-gun. The case is pretty good in the days when black families and communities were beset by marauding white men. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jon Norstog
This is a fantastic book. Many in this country, particularly on the left, have made quite the fetish of the civil rights movement being a Ghandi-style non-violent movement. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Joel L. Daniels
Bought it as a gift for my brother and he thoroughly enjoyed it. One evening he excitedly came in and said that our great grandfather, George Washington Albright, was written up in... Read morePublished 15 months ago by E. lewis