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The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement annotated edition Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0807857021
ISBN-10: 0807857025
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An impressive account.... [A]lso a forceful... challenge to the shelfful of civil rights histories that tell a story in which nonviolence was indeed an essential and defining quality of the Southern movement's success.... An important corrective to popular simplifications." - David J. Garrow, Chicago Tribune "Hill has done a service by rescuing the Deacons from oblivion." - The Nation"

Review

A compellingly detailed and gripping historical narrative. . . . Hill combines hands-on research . . . with an intimate and engaging narrative style. . . . Without his book, the history of the civil rights movement is indeed incomplete.--New Orleans Tribune

|Grapples with a topic of great importance. . . . Challenges historians to continue to rethink black freedom movements in relationship to gender and manhood; the divergent strategies of civil rights organizations; the role of indigenous working-class blacks; the importance of our collective memory or amnesia as well as how we choose to remember those civil rights movements themselves.--Journal of Social History

|Hill's ground-breaking, historical narrative is exhaustively researched. . . . His scholarly reconstruction adds not only to Southern historiography, but to that of the United States as well.--Louisiana History

|This is a fascinating account of an unrecognized chapter in civil rights history, but at its heart is more than just the story of how some communities resorted to violence. It also shows the imperative of working-class political mobilization being organized by working class people themselves. . . . The Deacons for Defense is a welcome challenge to the nonviolent mythology and orthodoxy that serve as the basis of civil rights history's mater narrative. Hill's work blows the lid off that cover story, persuasively arguing that the 'will to coerce change rather than win consent from one's enemies' is that era's real legacy.--Brooklyn Rail

|An engrossing, well-written study.--Journal of American Studies

|Hill's history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice is a timely addition to the literature on the African American freedom struggle in the South. Hill joins the ranks of those historians . . . who have begun to uncover the ways that the black community consistently espoused and frequently exercised the right to defend self, family, and property, even in the midst of a civil rights campaign that was publicly committed to nonviolent direct action tactics. . . . An engaging writer with a nice sense of drama and a good ear for the telling anecdote, [Hill's] depiction of the Movement in Bogalusa is particularly compelling. . . . Hill has written a graceful book that fills an important gap in civil rights scholarship.--Florida Historical Quarterly

|This is a significant book. Hill tells a compelling story of an important organization at a critical juncture of the Freedom movement. . . . Hill raises important questions for his study and others that will follow. This is not a timid book, and Hill deserves considerable credit for venturing into territory where the historiography is still shifting and unsettled. He is not afraid to take on big questions, nor important analyses. His emphasis on the class implications and the timeliness of the self-defense strategy at this stage of the movement seem especially vital.--The North Carolina Historical Review

|[Hill's] thorough and original history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice . . . is more than an impressive account of a now-obscure group that left no written records. The Deacons for Defense is also a forceful . . . challenge to the shelfful of civil rights histories that tell a story in which nonviolence was indeed an essential and defining quality of the Southern movement's success. . . . An important corrective to popular simplifications. . . . Highly valuable.--David J. Garrow, Chicago Tribune

|Hill . . . brings to life this forgotten story--which traditionally has been overshadowed by the non-violence movement, and often suppressed by African-Americans. . . . A fascinating and dramatic book. . . . Hill makes a persuasive case that many of the most important victories in the civil rights movement came as a result of the Deacons and the measures they took and advocated. . . . A must-read for historians and anyone interested in the civil rights movement.--New Orleans Times-Picayune

|[A] ground-breaking, historical narrative. . . . [Hill's] scholarly reconstruction adds not only to Southern historiography, but to that of the United States as well.--Louisiana History

|Hill has written a masterful account of a vital, understudied organization. This will undoubtedly be the book on the Deacons for a long time, and it addresses issues relevant not simply to movement scholarship but also to southern history, African American history, and American history more generally. Hill reminds us that King's fateful choice to preach nonviolence was just that--a choice that had consequences for both the man and the movement and that continues to shape American race relations.--Journal of Southern History

|Hill has written a bold and provocative book challenging the prevailing civil rights narrative. . . . This reviewer recommends this book highly and welcomes the debate it will generate.--Historian

|This refreshing and illuminating account documents how militant black men, most of them working class and many of them military veterans, used armed self-defense to supplement nonviolent direct action. Lance Hill treats their struggle with the analysis and respect it deserves and opens a new window into freedom movement history.--Michael Honey, University of Washington

|Lance Hill's book is the first full account of the [Deacons for Defense] and fills a major lacuna in the history of the era and the movement. It is also a welcome corrective to the school of civil rights historians who try to fix this multipronged, protean movement into the static polarities of nonviolence and violence, liberal integration and radical separatism. . . . Hill has done a service by rescuing the Deacons from oblivion.--The Nation

|The book both demands and rewards contemplative consideration of its author's views on the differences between cultural and political resistance, on the degree to which nonviolence and black power shared core values and goals, and on the historical continuity of an African American radical tradition. This well-argued revisionist text should spur useful debate and encourage others to recast traditional civil rights-era narratives.--The Journal of American History

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; annotated edition edition (February 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807857025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807857021
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Johnson on July 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book, a long awaited and much needed factual account of a group of courageous men whose activism had major impact on the movement. Hill has produced a wealth of documentation to prove the history he has brought to the fore.

This account does tribute to those brave and unsung (heretofore)

heroes who refused to further degrade themselves and thier communities by turning the other cheek! Must reading.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
you have to speak the language of the wolf." - Henry Austin, Deacons for Defense

This is truly a lost history of the civil rights movement that author Lance Hill has found under the layers upon layers of mainstream narratives which conveniently dictate false truths that - when repeated enough - become larger than life.

Following the organized self-defense philosophy espoused by Robert F. Williams in Monroe, N.C., a small group of men in Jonesboro, Louisiana, founded an organization that had great influence in the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s. The success the Deacons had in defeating the KKK and other haters on the streets by standing up, moving forward and staring them down with guns loaded brought a new sense of empowerment in demanding that justice truly be served today.

Hill explains how he became aware of the Deacons and then began his quest to research the history. Initially founded to protect civil rights workers, the Deacons' influence in the Deep South grew with a regional organizing campaign in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, along with chapters being founded in several Northern cities.

The success and expansion of the program brought interest from the FBI, coverage by an oftentimes adverse media and linkage - oftenetimes quite temporary - with a number of revolutionary organizations.

But through the comparatively brief time the Deacons operated - about four years - Hill successfully argues that the organization forced the federal government to aggressively enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was the bridge to the Black Power movement that emerged later in the decade.

The Deacons' legacy continues, as former members have strongly stated over the years that the group has never actually gone away.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kenyatta Woods on July 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book kept me up reading all night. I had in the past heard that their had been a group that pre dated The Black Panther Party, and were operating in the deep south. However there was not much information on this clandestine group. Well there is now. This is the book. My chest burst with pride as the tears fell down my cheeks. If you read nothing else this year please read this book if you want to know what our people were really doing during the "movement". The media had been lying to us about our role in our own history! This book is about us!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James D. Doyle on July 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
An important corrective to the nonviolence theme that domninates most histories of the Civil Rights Movement. The Deacons were mostly home grown Black Veterans from working class neighborhoods in small southern towns like Bogalusa and Jonesboro Louisianna. When the Klan and Police beat on civil rights workers and local protestors the Deacons fought back. In July 1965 when a mob of whites attacked a group of civil rights, mostly children, marchers in Bogalusa a Deacon shot a Klan member sending him to hospital. This incident had a profound impact on the response to Black demands for equal rights in Lousianna. Finally, the White Establishment began to make changes that led to a better life for Louisianna's Blacks. Professor Hill's(History, Tulane Univesity) book is full of such incidents and proves that the Deaon's impact on the souhtern Civil Rights struggle must not be overlooked.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Linda Green on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
excellent coverage of a little-known but very important part of the civil rights movement. if you're tired of the conventional view of the crm with everyone on their knees praying, this book is for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James P. Patuto on February 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Deacons for Defense story has been buried since the mid sixties. The reasons for this loss are many. The Deacons don't fit the stereotype promulgated by the orthodox civil rights leaders and historians, nor does it particularly fit with the "conservative" historian view that anti-black violence largely was confined to a few terrible but soon overcome incidents [overcome with support of the Feds and the Press]. This book shows how pervasive the violence was and how the African-American Community especially the men, were scarred by the violence, and reluctant to join with the non-violent philosophy of the orthodox movement , as it destroyed their sense of manhood. The author does stretch at times to support his themes, especially the class differences between the Deacons and the mainstreamers, but this story is strong and should be better known. One amazing thing, with all of the hoopla about gun control, I'm surprised the NRA doesn't push the Deacon's story, as it does support the notion of an armed citizen being effective in countering an oppressive government. One can only surmise that the NRA supporters are also supporters of the repression in these instances. Ironic [but I digress].
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By So Cal on November 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book tells the previously untold story of the southern black men who protected the freedom workers. The marketing slogan may have been non-violence, but the reality was that sometimes only force or the credible threat of the use of force kept freedom workers alive.
I strong endorsement of the wisdom of the Second Amendment for personal defense. These were not revolutionaries, but brave husbands and brothers protecting their families. This is a story that needed to be told.
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