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Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms
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Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  77 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Chronicling the underappreciated black tradition of bearing arms for self-defense, this book presents an array of examples reaching back to the pre—Civil War era that demonstrate a willingness of African American men and women to use firearms when necessary to defend their families and communities. From Frederick Douglass’s advice to keep “a good revolver” handy as defense ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great written history of african americans from slavery through the 1970s whose only form of a self defense was a firearm. This is a painful account of state and local law enforcement duplicity in the terrorizing and lynching of (mostly) southern blacks. The book does a great job identifying people history has overlooked who made significant contributions to protecting their communities and eventually protecting those who were marching for equality and civil rights. The book did not propose th ...more
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very well researched academic examination of guns in the Black community, their history in the support of self-determination.

The book does a wonderful job illustrating the difference between self-defense and political violence and the narrow line that the Black community has had to walk in proselytizing the former while protecting against immediate rhetorical urges toward the latter. There is a long storied history of ownership and use of guns to salvage personal safety and act as an immediate s
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Professor Johnson is a Harvard Law graduate and law prof at Fordham University. Reading this book with that in mind is helpful. He writes building the case for both sides or should I say the many sides of the issue of gun ownership in America. Focusing on Black American gun ownership. Growing up I believed in the myth of a nonviolent Civil Rights movement. That all one needed to do was pray up, march on, sit on and sing We Shall Overcome to achieve equality. That is not the case and was never wa ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The title and cover caught my eye when browsing Amazon. The book progresses chronologically with many anecdotal stories. While there were times when I got bogged down in keeping focused due to the sheer number of individual stories, it was definitely worth the read.
The content does seem to get a bit light when it gets up to the post 9/11 period and the Heller and McDonald decisions. Almost as if the black tradition of arms no longer exists or there is no one working to continue the tradition.
Jonathan Blanks
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating run through American history. It as much a history of white American terrorism against black folks as it is its stated purpose of a history of blacks and guns. I plan to write a more detailed review for publishing soon.
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Professor Johnson's tracking of the people's interpretation of the right to bear arms over the past 200 or so years successfully challenges modern orthodoxy on the role of arms in the civil rights struggle.
Jeremy Hatfield
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
From my perspective, it seems that the African-American community has, in general, developed an aversion to gun ownership. Given the state of things in the inner cities, it's easy to understand why some would develop that mentality.

But, it hasn't always been so, and Johnson explores the history of American blacks and gun ownership, from slavery on through the Civil Rights Era, in this book.

There, I learned how, thanks to the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, freedmen eagerly took up gun ownership
Beardo Gomez
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book.
Lester O'garro
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the history of African Americans and gun ownership. I left feeling encouraged and learning a lot about African Americans and their determination and grit. I am so glad I read it!
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Johnson has compiled an impressive amount of historical research elucidating what he terms the "black tradition of arms." I valued Johnson's exploration of a neglected area of inquiry, even if I found myself craving a stronger organizational scheme for what amounts to a numbing avalanche of anecdotes. The section addressing the use of arms by radical groups (e.g., the Panthers) was inexplicably cursory compared to earlier chapters. The few passages of deeper analysis always came as a welcome rel ...more
Bob Croft
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good overview, from the Civil War on. Much detail. Particularly good final chapter on the current gun-rights debate, including conceal carry results, stats on accidents, child deaths (both few), armed robbery results (among young blacks, almost half of homicides during armed robberies result in the robber being the corpse).
Even though this book seemed to focus on Black historical accounts during the 1960s who may have used force or a gun, I was unable to read it at this time.

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80 likes · 28 comments
“Self-defense is a universal exception to the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence. State failure drives the self-defense doctrine through the imminence requirement. Private violence is justified where one faces an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to which the government cannot respond. The imminence requirement defines that space where the state, regardless of its motives and ambitions, simply cannot help. State failure within the window of imminence is a reality for everyone. But one might expect blacks to be particularly sensitive to it. The window of imminence is often larger in black neighborhoods where various challenges stretch public resources. Certainly state failure is less galling today. Under slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow, the state was often just another layer of threat, and reliance on the state for personal security was more obviously an absurd proposition. Today, the malevolent state is thankfully an anachronism. That makes it easier for those ensconced in government bureaucracies to urge reliance on the state and to ignore the continuing failure of government within the window of imminence. But it is sheer hubris for public officials to ignore the inherent limits on state power and claim that they can protect people within a space where that is impossible as a matter of simple physics.” 1 likes
“Backed by Klan-type organizations dubbed “Red Shirts” and “Rough Riders,” Democrats summoned thirty-two of the city’s prominent blacks and laid out their demands: All black officeholders in Wilmington must resign and Alex Manly must leave Wilmington. Then, while the black elite were formulating a response, the Democrats launched a wave of violence that steamrolled the scattered Negro opposition. The Republican-Populist administration was ousted and replaced with Democrats. More than 1,400 blacks abandoned their property and fled the city. One commentator called it “the nation’s first full-fledged coup d’état.”45” 0 likes
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