Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible” as Want to Read:
This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  114 Ratings  ·  27 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed

The New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderBeloved by Toni MorrisonBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesKindred by Octavia E. ButlerThe Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
30th out of 183 books — 66 voters
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas PikettyThe Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro CremadesZero to One by Peter ThielLessons of Hope by Joel KleinThe First Civil Right by Naomi Murakawa
Austrian Economic Reads of 2014
7th out of 20 books — 5 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 926)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Robert Wood
Oct 27, 2014 Robert Wood rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2014 Kbullock rated it liked it
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
Jun 17, 2015 Tymotka rated it really liked it
Not so much a book analyzing armed struggle as it is of community defense tactics through anecdotal story telling during the 1940s-1960s. I find many are looking for the former and misunderstanding the title a bit.

The author starts off with a thorough analysis of racial construction in the early Americas, and the often ignored violent slave revolts. Later he ties the importance of blacks joining the military as an important tool of armed experience. These veterans were integral to the defense of
Apr 02, 2015 Hannah rated it it was amazing
I can't believe how much of this was new information to me. Some bits I marked with post-its:

"Sheriffs and white posses raided black homes to seize 'illegal' guns and declared that such seizures were not an infringement of blacks' Second Amendment right to possess guns as part of a militia. Blacks faced strong disincentives to own their guns legally, however, because applying for a license effectively informed local authorities - usually sheriffs - that the applicant had weapons. Blacks were pru
Marcus Johnson
Mar 09, 2015 Marcus Johnson rated it it was amazing
Like an archaeologist brushing dust off of artifacts that tell unknown stories, Cobb restores a side of the history that has been whitewashed -- how nonviolence and armed self-defense have historically collaborated to accomplish the objectives of civil rights and freedom movements in the United States.

This book could easily be used as a call-to-arms for oppressed peoples; however, while Cobb states throughout how nonviolence without armed self-defense could've undermined the movements, he respon
Jan 28, 2016 Kellyann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Cobb was not only there, volunteering in the rural South for civil rights; he is also an engaging, nuanced writer. This book should help complicate anyone's view of both the civil rights movement and the tactic of nonviolent resistance. I found the chapter on the Deacons for Defense and Justice especially illuminating, as well as Cobb's depiction of the transition from nonviolence as the predominant tactic for civil rights, to "black power," which was often assumed (by whites and blacks alike) t ...more
Anna Faktorovich
May 14, 2016 Anna Faktorovich rated it it was ok
Charles E. Cobb Jr. This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. 328pp, 12 illustrations, $24.95: ISBN: 978-0-8223-6123-7. December 2016. Duke University Press.


The cover of this book enticed me because it’s of an elderly African American woman in a white shirt, skirt and partially untied shoes seated comfortably but intensely in a wooden chair with a rifle with its barrel pointing at the ceiling in her right hand. Whenever I see a book about a move
Duke Press
"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
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
Nov 28, 2014 Jo Stafford rated it really liked it
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
Ken Braley
Aug 26, 2015 Ken Braley rated it really liked it
Charles E. Cobb Jr, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, shares a much over-looked part of the history. The role of guns and armed self-defense in the mostly non-violent movement is not a contradiction, but a more full picture of complexity of the movement and the many organizations involved.
Jacqueline Trescott
Jan 25, 2016 Jacqueline Trescott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: main
Before Black History Month begins, this is a book to read. This study and memoir by Charlie Cobb goes far beyond the people who are elevated each year. Cobb was there in the worst days of Mississippi of the 1960s and observed how ordinary people carried out their everyday lives in the face of violence and how they connected to the changes around them. These citizens believed in self-defense, protected their property and often the civil rights workers who migrated to the South to help change the ...more
Feb 09, 2015 Dave rated it liked it
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
Lionel Taylor
Dec 12, 2015 Lionel Taylor rated it really liked it
This book challenges the notion that the Civil Rights movements was a completely pacifist movement with all of the modern leaders accepting the nonviolent philosophy of Dr. King. The truth is that the Civil Rights movement was made up of many different organizations and people and all of them approached the work in a different way. This book examines the part of the movement that was not willing to be totally nonviolent and, while they did not advocate violence, they were also not willing to all ...more
Ryan Mishap
Aug 29, 2014 Ryan Mishap rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 29, 2014 Keith rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 14, 2014 Ken rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 27, 2014 Erica rated it it was amazing
Almost completely unknown-to-me history of armed people protecting nonviolent organizers in the civil rights/Freedom movement. Well-written, engaging, and thought-provoking.
Apr 30, 2016 Chad rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics, race
“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
Danielle McGuire
Most of the information Cobb relays was not new to me, but the personal reflections and anecdotes were wonderful.
Apr 27, 2015 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
Shelves: history
I saw this book at Red Emma's.
Scott Wilson
Jan 21, 2015 Scott Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book has me looking at the Civil Rights Struggle in a whole new way. It's most definitely required reading.
Mar 27, 2015 Redpoet rated it really liked it
Very interesting and informative. The only part of the book I did t like was the Conclusion.
Lou Lieb
May 07, 2016 Lou Lieb rated it really liked it
I only read about half the book. I found it worthwhile though. It is not a frontal assault against the strategy of nonviolence, but rather, gives a nuanced reading of how arms were used in certain circumstances for self defense. It would be interesting to see what proponents of nonviolence would say about this book.
Doubledee Mcpirate
Jan 03, 2015 Doubledee Mcpirate rated it liked it
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.
J.W. Vohs
Apr 16, 2016 J.W. Vohs rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-and-war
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...
Dec 19, 2015 0 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, race, tactics
More than half of this book wasn't about the civil rights movement. There are a few good narratives buried in a lot of repetition. A slog.
Cathleen Castello
Cathleen Castello marked it as to-read
Jun 24, 2016
Ali marked it as to-read
Jun 23, 2016
Faith Fells
Faith Fells marked it as to-read
Jun 23, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 31 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination
  • Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
  • Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980
  • Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human
  • Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California
  • Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery
  • The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America
  • The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther
  • The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas
  • Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture
  • Granny Made Me an Anarchist: General Franco, The Angry Brigade and Me
  • The Origins of the Civil Rights Movements: Black Communities Organizing for Change
  • Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
  • Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid
  • Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
  • Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…