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This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible Hardcover – June 3, 2014


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This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible + Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms + Negroes with Guns
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465033105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465033102
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Given the violent resistance to equality for African Americans during the civil rights struggle, many viewed the tactics of nonviolence as either docile or naive or both. Cobb argues that the effectiveness of nonviolence speaks for itself in shining harsh light on the moral outrage of racism and in transforming large swaths of the black population into activists, but he also examines the armed self-defense that undergirded it. Cobb, a former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, reviews the long tradition of self-protection among African Americans, who knew they could not rely on local law enforcement for protection. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, after the fire bombing of his home, kept weapons in his house to protect his family. Cobb offers a collection of memories of freedom fighters and a broad historical perspective, from slave resistance to the Deacons of Defense and Justice, as evidence of the human impulse to self-protection that counterbalanced the tactics of nonviolent resistance. Understanding how the use of guns makes this history of the civil rights movement more compelling to readers, Cobb is, nonetheless, focused on the determination of ordinary citizens, women included, to win their rights, even if that meant packing a pistol in a pocket or purse. --Vanessa Bush

Review

“[A] richly detailed memoir…”
New York Times Book Review

“Cobb's long-essay format brings the Freedom Movement to life in an unexpected way, shaking up conventional historical views and changing the conversation about individual freedom and personal protection that continues today…A nuanced exploration of the complex relationship between nonviolent civil disobedience and the threat of armed retaliation.”
Shelf Awareness for Readers

“[A] revelatory new history of armed self-defense and the civil rights movement…”
Reason

“Masterfully told…[A] challenging and important new narrative…”
—The Root

“In this challenging book, Charles Cobb, a former organizer, examines the role of guns in the civil rights movement.”
Mother Jones

“This book will have readers who might have nothing else in common politically reaching for a copy.”
—PJ Media

“Cobb brilliantly situates the civil rights movement in the context of Southern life and gun culture, with a thesis that is unpacked by way of firsthand and personal accounts.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Cobb… reviews the long tradition of self-protection among African Americans, who knew they could not rely on local law enforcement for protection… Understanding how the use of guns makes this history of the civil rights movement more compelling to readers, Cobb is nonetheless focused on the determination of ordinary citizens, women included, to win their rights, even if that meant packing a pistol in a pocket or purse.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Persuasive…Cobb’s bracing and engrossing celebration of black armed resistance ties together two of founding principles of the Republic—individual equality and the right to arm oneself against tyranny—and the hypocrisy and ambiguity evident still in their imbalanced application.”
Publishers Weekly

“A frank look at the complexities and contradictions of the civil rights movement, particularly with regard to the intertwined issues of nonviolence and self-defense…Thought-provoking and studded with piercing ironies.”
Kirkus Reviews

“What most of us think we know about the central role of non-violence in the long freedom struggle in the South is not so much wrong as blinkered. Or so Charles Cobb says in this passionate, intellectually disciplined reordering of the conventional narrative to include armed self-defense as a central component of the black movement's success. Read it and be reminded that history is not a record etched in stone by journalists and academics, but a living stream, fed and redirected by the bottom-up witness of its participants.”
—Hodding Carter III, Professor of Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed is the most important movement book in many years. Charles Cobb uses long-standing confusion over the distinction between violence and nonviolence as an entrée to rethinking many fundamental misconceptions about what the civil rights movement was and why it was so powerful. This level of nuance requires a disciplined observer, an engaged participant, and a lyrical writer. Cobb is all these.”
—Charles M. Payne, author of I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle

This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed is a powerful mixture of history and memoir, a scholarly and emotionally engaging account of a dark time in our recent history. This is one of those books that is going to have people from across the political spectrum buying it for different reasons. One can hope that those on both left and right can learn from this book.”
—Clayton E. Cramer, author of Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie

“Powerfully and with great depth, Charles Cobb examines the organizing tradition of the southern Freedom Movement, drawing on both his own experiences as a field secretary with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) working in the rural black belt South and contemporary conversations with his former co-workers. While Cobb challenges the orthodox narrative of the ‘nonviolent’ movement, this is much more than a book about guns. It is essential reading.”
—Julian Bond, NAACP Chairman Emeritus

“Blending compelling experience with first-rate scholarship, Charles E. Cobb Jr. traces the way that armed self-defense and nonviolent direct action worked sometimes in tension but mostly in tandem in the African American freedom struggle. Crafted with powerful clarity and engaging prose, Cobb’s book deploys the intellectual insights of both everyday people and excellent historians to make the case that it wasn’t necessarily ‘non-nonviolent’ to pack a pistol or tote a shotgun in the civil rights-era South—but grassroots activists often found it necessary. This is easily the best, most accessible, and most comprehensive book on the subject.”
—Timothy B. Tyson, author of Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power and Blood Done Sign My Name

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed jostles us outside the ho-hum frame of ‘pick up a gun’ vs. ‘turn the other cheek.’ Charles Cobb’s graceful prose and electrifying history throw down a gauntlet: can we understand any part of the Freedom Struggle apart from America’s unique romanticization of violence and gun culture? This absorbing investigation shows how guns are often necessary, but not sufficient, to live out political democracy.”
—Wesley Hogan, Director, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

“Charles Cobb, Jr.’s This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed is a marvelous contribution to our understanding the modern Black Freedom Struggle. With wonderful storytelling skills and drawing on his unparalleled access to movement particpants, he situates armed self-defense in the context of a complex movement and in conversation with both nonviolence and community organizing. Cobb writes from personal experience on the frontlines of SNCC’s voter registration work while also using the skills of journalist, historian, and teacher. The result is a compelling and wonderfully nuanced book that will appeal to specialists and, more importantly, anyone interested in human rights and the freedom struggle.”
—Emilye Crosby, author of A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi and editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up

“This long overdue book revises the image of black people in the South as docile and frightened. It tells our story demonstrating that black people have always been willing to stand their ground and do whatever was necessary to free themselves from bondage and to defend their families and communities. This is a must-read for understanding the southern Freedom Movement.”
—David Dennis, former Mississippi Director, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Director, Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project

“When night riders attacked his home, twentieth-century Mississippi civil rights leader Hartman Turnbow ‘stood his ground’ and lit up the night to protect his family. Charles Cobb’s ‘stand your ground’ book, timely, controversial, and well documented, contravenes a history as old as George Washington and Andrew Jackson and as new as George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. Don’t miss it.”
—Bob Moses, former director of SNCC's Mississippi voter registration program and founder and president of the Algebra Project

“Popular culture washes the complexity out of so many things. Charles Cobb works mightily against that torrent. This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed shows that the simplistic popular understanding of the black freedom movement obscures a far richer story. Cobb defies the popular narrative with accounts of the grit and courage of armed stalwarts of the modern movement who invoked the ancient right of self-defense under circumstances where we should expect nothing less. This book is an important contribution to a story that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.”
—Nicholas Johnson, Professor of Law, Fordham Law School, and author of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms

“Any book that has as its central thesis that armed self-defense was essential both to the existence and the success of the Civil Rights Movement is bound to stir up controversy. But Charles Cobb, combining the rigor of a scholar with the experience (and passion) of a community organizer, has made his case. This book is a major contribution to the historiography of the black freedom struggle. More than that, it adds a new chapter to the story of the local people who, often armed, protected the organizers and their communities during the turbulent civil rights years.”
—John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Miller on June 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent book, completely opens the window on a seldom discussed or understood aspect of the southern Freedom Movement (AKA "Civil Rights Movement" though I'll use the author's chosen language). We're taught an image of passive blacks and do-gooder whites somehow "convincing" southern whites to have a change of heart-- what Julian Bond called "Rosa sat down; Martin stood up; and then the white folks saw the light and saved the day." The reality couldn't be further from the truth. The Freedom Struggle was mostly low key, often almost invisible, grassroots organizing in black communities throughout the south. While many of the movement organizers from SNCC & CORE embraced nonviolence as a tactic, and a few even as a way of life, they were protected by armed, organized defenders from the local black community. This history of armed black self defense is scarcely discussed and goes back before the Civil War, and in the midst of the highly violent Jim Crow south was surprisingly successful. Groups like the Klan, the Citizens Alliance, etc thrived on fear and cowardly attacks and would usually flee when met with local black armed resistance, and these individuals and organized groups protected the "nonviolents" as locals called the civil rights organizers. Without this protection its likely that they would have been subjected to move white supremacist violence. Charles Cobb, himself a former SNCC organizer, does an excellent job exploring this crucial side to the Freedom Struggle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ken McCarthy on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Finally, someone has written a history of the Civil Right movement that includes this simple fact:

Armed resistance to violence - by citizens - helped to keep the Klan in line and provided security to Martin Luther King's marches and other important events in civil rights history.

King and his inspiration Gandhi both believed in non-violence, but they also both believed that people should not be deprived of their ability to defend themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rick H. Kennerly on July 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was just commenting on a some redneck racist deputy in Ga when I forgot that I hadn't really mentioned an excellent read:

This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible: Charles E. Cobb Jr.: http://ow.ly/yODb0

Charles Cobb was a youth organizer in Mississippi during the mid-1960's. While the book is a paean to the 2nd Amendment and it's role in keeping blacks "safer" in those terrible days, it's also a quite personal and historic look at the use and possession of weapons in the Jim Crow South as well as how guns were used to free an otherwise terrorized population.

Regardless of how you feel about guns today, you owe it to yourself to give this book a read, just for the firsthand reporting from the point of view of the terrorized, if nothing else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By katheryn Johnson on June 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Great book about a unconventional part of American history which switches the conversation on guns from an oppressive feature of rednecks to an instrumental of maintaining and gaining freedom for all people. Many have created the narrative that gun rights is a racial issue that stacks the deck against minorities but this book challenges the precedents from the real civil rights movement. Best historical book I read this year. The best political would be American Séance. Two different categories as they should be, because guns should not be a political issue.
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