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This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible
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This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  43 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. at the peak of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost sat on a loaded pistol. “Just for self defense,” King assured him. It was not the only weapon King kept for such a purpose; one of his advisors remembered the reverend’s Montgomery, Alabama home as “an arsenal.”

Like King, many ostensibly “nonviolent” civil r
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Robert Wood
I initially looked at the reviews of the book at amazon before I started reading, and it's pretty clear that the book is being embraced by some in the gun rights movement as a vindication of their political positions. However, this strikes me as a profound misunderstanding of the book. Rather than attempting to intervene in those particular debates, the text is primarily a critique of the dominant image of the civil rights movement, examining it as a top down phenomenon, tied to a small group of ...more
On the positive side, this is an essential contribution to the literature of the Civil Rights movement, by someone who was there. Cobb documents the crucial role that armed self defense played in protecting the "nonviolent" actors from the threatened and actual violence of the Klan. Reliance on armed self defense was not foolproof, as the murder of Medgar Evers proved, but it deterred the Klansmen on enough occasions to create space for some genuine progress.

Now for the other side. Cobb is a sk
David Lucander
A good enough book about how gun culture and the self-defense tradition applies to the freedom struggle. Given Cobb's experience in SNCC and his reputation for being one of the smartest guys in the room, I was hoping that "This Nonviolent Stuff" would be a definitive piece that added to the fascinating research by Lance Hill The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement of the many writings by and about like Robert F. Williams: Self Respect, Self Defense & Self Dete ...more
Jo Stafford
This highly readable book by former SNCC field secretary Charles E Cobb shines a light on a little-known aspect of Civil Rights movement history - the role of armed self-defense by local people in protecting civil rights workers. Cobb outlines the long history of armed self-defense by African Americans in the South, from slave rebellions on, along the way pointing out that the first gun control laws were designed to keep guns out of the hands of Black people.

The book contains good overviews of
“The decision of what to do centered not on the choice between nonviolence and violence but on the question of what response was best in each situation. Most often, moreover, there was very little time to decide. … What was always at play was the common sense of survival. Flight when necessary was not cowardice, just as shooting it out hopelessly in the name of 'manhood' was not always courage.”

Charles Cobb illuminates what you don't read in most history books: that the "nonviolent" struggle for
This basically just explains why non-violent civil disobedience benefitted from the aid of armed intimidation during the civil rights movement. It does a good job pointing out the nuances of non-violence but really just reinforces some of the more naïve ideas about resistance that I thought he was trying to dispel. I just felt like this would have been better if "how guns made the civil rights movement possible" was one chapter in a more comprehensive book about diverse resistance tactics. Not b ...more
Ryan Mishap
History from the ground up, written by a person who was there, that attempts to re-orient the nonviolent struggle for civil rights back into the context of a society with a gun culture--specifically the Deep South. This isn't a book about armed revolutionaries, but about normal folks who utilized armed self-defense--or, at least, didn't reject that option--but still participated in or experienced the nonviolent struggle. Trying to get away from the sanctified myth attached to Martin Luther King, ...more
What an amazing book. Completely reshaped my thinking of what was happening in the South in way of self defense and nonviolence. Those people were heroes and the untold stories of what happened to pave the way for the next generation is absolutely incredible. Almost a must read in my opinion.
J.w. Vohs
Title caught my attention. Interesting to learn how many Civil Rights workers accepted non-violence as a political strategy/philosophy, but still carried personal firearms for protection. I never knew...
Very quick read on how the black freedom movement was opened to many tactics which history tends to ignore b/c recognizing them raises the fear of black revenge on white abuses.
Almost completely unknown-to-me history of armed people protecting nonviolent organizers in the civil rights/Freedom movement. Well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking.
Danielle McGuire
Most of the information Cobb relays was not new to me, but the personal reflections and anecdotes were wonderful.
Scott Wilson

This book has me looking at the Civil Rights Struggle in a whole new way. It's most definitely required reading.
Doubledee Mcpirate
Cobb tried, in my view, to do too much that he seemed to cram it in. It's easily readable and very important. We often focus on King and nonviolence and neglect the more militant (and important) aspect of the movement. Radio Free Dixie should be read alongside this work.
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“Many black women also kept guns within easy reach. But it is important to mention that women & their use of guns present the historian of the southern Freedom Movement with a particular problem. Many of the women from this era (like the men) have passed away & cannot be interviewed. And although a few of the men have written or been extensively interviewed about their role in self-defense, the women have publicly left little record & have generally been ignored in the discussion & debate over armed self-defense...For the most part, we do not know what many women who were active in the movement were thinking, or whether & how they organized for self-defense. Historians are therefore dependent on males for portrays & interpretations of women's thoughts & actions.” 2 likes
“Mrs. (Fanie Lou) Hamer, like her mother, also kept weapons nearby in case she needed them: 'I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom & the first cracker even looks like he wants to throw some dynamite on my porch won't write his mama again.” 0 likes
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