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Negroes with Guns

(African American Life)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  541 ratings  ·  71 reviews
First published in 1962, Negroes with Guns is the story of a southern black community's struggle to arm itself in self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. Frustrated and angered by violence condoned or abetted by the local authorities against blacks, the small community of Monroe, North Carolina, brought the issue of armed self-defense to the forefron ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Wayne State University Press (first published 1962)
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I believe this quote best summarizes why this book is the bomb...and why Robert Williams was ahead of his time in identifying flexible armed defensive AND non-violent demonstration as case-specific and dynamic based on the circumstances you find yourself dissenting.

"The existence of violence is at the very heart of a racist system. The Afro-American militant is a 'militant' because he defends himself, his family, his home and his dignity. He does not introduce violence into a racist social syste
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Williams was the head of the Monroe, North Carolina NAACP, and an important voice in the early Civil Rights movement. This book in particular served as an inspiration to a generation of influential groups, including Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party.
What makes this book interesting is that it is not a handbook for action but rather a chronicle of some of the horrific violence and abuse the Black community of Monroe suffered at the hands of Whites. It’s a chronicle of a complete br
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Profoundly necessary, especially as a corrective to dogmatic pacifism - a pacifism that does not only disallow but passionately berates and ridicules any other strategies to liberation that do not centre "nonviolence".

Also important with regards to challenging the deeply held idea (*cough* myth) that the civil rights movement was entirely based on/fuelled by a 'let's-hold-hands-and-sing-as-our-bodies-are-torn-to-shreds' motto.

Ward Churchill's 'Pacifism as pathology' also does a phenomenal job
Andrew Hains
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in History and Civil Rights
“God damn, God damn, what is this God damn country coming to that the niggers have got guns, the niggers are armed and the police can’t even arrest them!” This was spoken by an old white man upset that Rob Williams was defending himself against a mob. It is also the quote used by Rob Williams for the title of his book, “Negroes with Guns” (1962).

Rob Williams is one of the many unsung heros of the Civil Rights Movement. If it was not for his short manifesto, “Negroes with Guns,” Williams would
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Negroes with Guns is an account of how Robert F. Williams arrived at this belief in armed self-defense. To be clear, Robert never called for violent provocation by black individuals, “I do not mean that Negroes should go out and attempt to get revenge for mistreatments or injustices,” he advocated for black individuals to defend themselves and the lives of their loved ones.

This account of life in Monroe reveals a time that is not to foreign to today. Williams recalls the atrocities he and black
Malik Newton
If interested in tracing the genealogy of the Black Radical Tradition, one cannot overlook this book. Williams has influenced generations of Black freedom fighters by laying it plain and speaking from a position consistent with the realities of American terror.

The book is short and more documentary than theoretical; it does not seek to elucidate a moral argument for self-defense. It tells the story of a small North Carolina town under siege by white racists and their legal, institutional apparat
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lucidly and passionately reasoned call to conscience and call to arms in this classic text of the Civil Rights era. With novelistic flair Williams describes how the Union County, NC NAACP fought off attacks by the local KKK and corrupt police by employing an organized system neighborhood self-defense. Williams writes as a forsaken prophet, villainized by the media and political officials, but nevertheless resolute in the conviction that the principled embrace of self-defense is central to the ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can see how this book inspired the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Quick and easy read. It gets heavy quite a bit so although I thought I was going to finish it in one day, I ended up stretching it out over 4 days. I couldn't take in all those accounts of racial hatred and injustice at once. It was too much.

Well-written, frequent breaks in the writing (which is kind of my thing), blunt, straightforward, and a very quick read. Loved it. Another favorite. All of these social media activist
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
hm.. a different kind of American revolution. incredibly nuanced arguments. could it be that fighting back might be a kind of civic duty? curious about definitions of "civilization" and legitimate forms of "civil" disobedience. wondering how we can begin to redefine fear. wondering about the spectacle of lynchings and the murder of all black heroes. thinking about erasure and liberating knowledge and militant youth. thinking about how to make youth know their humanity, instead of knowing their o ...more
Kyle VanEtten
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Woah - So helpful to learn from the past, and to get into primary sources like this book. I appreciated this synopsis of William's worldview at the end of the book: "Robert Williams sources are not European. His ideas are pure expressions of his social existence as a Southern Negro." Williams writes eloquently about the struggles he experienced first hand and the natural response of self-defense to unrelenting and unchallenged violence against the black community. The following quote is really a ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leftist
"The stranglehold of oppression cannot be loosened by a plea to the oppressor's conscience." Martin Luther King is remembered fondly because of his nonviolent tactics, but Robert F. Williams emphasizes that there could not have been progress through these means without the threat of force. I support the 2nd Amendment because I feel that all oppressed Americans should have the right to defend themselves, especially transwomen. This book strengthens my commitment to that belief.
Aaron Asch
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
great history, not crazy about the storytelling style
Jarret Lovell
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Absolutely amazing, disturbing, and thought-provoking! I came across this book after Eldridge Cleaver referenced it in SOUL ON ICE. One read and the connection between this book and the Black Panthers becomes apparent. Published in 1966 - the same year as the formation of the Panthers - the book introduces the reader to Robert F. Williams, an important but unknown figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Williams was a marine who returned to Monroe, North Carolina to find rampant violence against bl
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this for an African American history class and absolutely loved it. Although it’s a very short book, I feel as if Robert F. Williams managed to put forth a lot of good content that other books triple the length couldn’t do.

“Negroes with Guns” illustrates a very grim yet detailed image of the Southern US in the 1960s that wasn’t apparent to most people. The first third of the book is more of Williams telling the story of what led him to write the book, and it’s honestly jaw-dropping. His
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Classic book on why 'gun control' is a historically dangerous and shortsighted mistake. Following the pogroms in the Jim Crow South, this is a firsthand account of the most important catalysts in 20th century black America: Robert Franklin Williams. Recounting a spontaneous armed resistance against the KKK/Monroe NC Police Department, the books details events of a community under siege, exercising their natural right to self-defense that shook the establishment and racists to their core. Forget ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
prescient and relevant. a quick, easy, and important read. my one real gripe was with the characterization of racism as psychosis (since obviously mentally ill and disabled people, particularly those who are poor and/or of color, are among the most marginalized, maligned, and threatened), but speaking in the colloquial rather than the medical-social sense, i suppose it is. non-violence is a tactic, but organized armed self-defense gets the goods. read this book!!!!!
Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in liberation
This book is a must read! I believe it will empower anyone of any background in the value of their unique struggle, the importance of resistance and standing up for your human rights, and the connections we share with all peoples who realize the beauty of our humanity. Pick it up!
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'd givce this 5 stars--10 stars if I could. I donl't know how I missed this classic until now I think whenver I read some white liberal wonker on FB complain about "guns" 'll refer them to this book.
Chris brown
a must read. at least once
Jef Janis
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read!
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very brief book from Williams which quickly explains not only his philosophy regarding how blacks should respond with violent self-defense during the Jim Crow-era, and also details exactly what happened that led to the false claims levied against Williams and that led to his exile to Cuba.

I read about Williams while in college and was studying the arch of African-American philosophies in relation to the race problem throughout the 20th century. Williams was always somebody that nobody knew, and
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When one opens this book, they delve into the hotbed of Jim Crow oppression , and explore the heart and mind of a revolutionary who will get rid of it, through any means necessary. A returning war veteran of the WW2 , Robert Franklin Williams joins the NAACP to contribute to the fight for civil rights of African-Americans. Seeking to integrate spaces such as public libraries , restaurants and pools, Williams is faced with not only repression from state forces such as police , local politicians a ...more
Tibby (she/her)
This was such an interesting historical document. We hear a lot of about the various peaceful direct actions taken during the Civil Rights Era as well as the Black Panther Party and it's push for Black folks to arm themselves in self defense.

The books starts with a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. which is then referenced both in the forward and in the actual text. The forward is written by a contemporary novelist and was a little dense, but had some really interesting points as well as added co
Alex Lee
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, bio, favorites, 2018
This is a pretty direct book. Succinctly written with a clear message and a clear structure, Williams conveys the direct truth of what it means to be a citizen among others... and the hypocrisy of a nation that embeds structural inequality into its general processes... The violence of racists create the very conditions that they cannot live with because the only response to violence is violence. If someone refuses to recognize one's subjectivity, forcing them with violence to recognize your own ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a decent history of Robert F Williams up until 1962. It is challenging as it gives a different approach to Civil Rights. I really want to argue with Williams' approach as an active nonviolent believer. While the beginning of the book is more history telling by Williams, Chapter 7 "Self Defense: An American Tradition" is where he gives his vision of fighting for rights. There were quite a few challenging ideas but I think "The existence of violence is at the very heart of a racist system. ...more
Güel Almeréida
"The stranglehold of oppression cannot be loosened by a plea to the oppressor’s conscience. Social change in something as fundamental as racist oppression involves violence." ... "When Afro-American liberation is finally achieved in the U.S.A., one of the many new developments in such a society will be some sort of institution that will correct those Americans whose minds are thoroughly warped by racism. Somehow a way will be found so that these insane people will be made whole, will be made wel ...more
This is the story of one of the earliest figures who promoted basically what became popularly known as the Black Power movement. I had never heard of Williams or his story - until being told about him by a professor, I’d been under the impression that the game was all non-violence until Stokeley Carmichael decided he wanted Black Power. Not so! Williams wrote this book while he was in exile in Cuba. His story shows the truth we still see today - “conservatives” are all for gun rights unless the ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really interesting part of recent American history that I didn't know about. Really puts into perspective why many people in America's black community don't want to give up their right to guns...because they don't trust their own government to protect them. I still generally believe that everyday citizens don't need to have access to a lot of the weapons that US law allows, but I'm definitely more understanding of that perspective now.
Alex Williams
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Extremely interesting to read one of the only pieces written by Robert Williams. I use the word excellent in the sense that, the book is well written and it gets its points across very well, and I certainly learned a lot from it. But it is not excellent in the sense that, American history is often terrible and one can hardly read about it without feeling frustrated and disgusted. Would recommend to anyone, but especially if you're American, and especially if you're from the South.
feux d'artifice
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
wow. what a dense read for such a small book. I found the parts re: the pool and the last chapter the most compelling. I think what this book accomplished the most for me what to expose me to how little I know of NAACP and the time period. have lots of reading to do on my end and knowledge to acquire.
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Robert Franklin Williams was a civil rights leader, author, and key figure in promoting both integration and armed Black self-defense in the United States.

After a stint in the army during WWII, Williams returned to his hometown in Monroe, North Carolina where he built a uniquely militant NAACP chapter and attracted international attention to racist hypocrisy. When eventually forced by the KKK and

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8 likes · 6 comments
“The Afro-American militant is a 'militant' because he defends himself, his family, his home, and his dignity. He does not introduce violence into a racist social system - the violence is already there, and has always been there. It is precisely this unchallenged violence that allows a racist social system to perpetuate itself. When people say that they are opposed to Negroes 'resorting to violence' what they really mean is that they are opposed to Negroes defending themselves and challenging the exclusive monopoly of violence practiced by white racists.” 8 likes
“It’s going to be a long row to hoe to bring the white South to any sense of shame, or to make them wake up to the brute fact that the golden age they hark back to and are fighting tooth and nail to perpetuate was a slave-holding, slave-breeding, slave-driving, slave-hunting hell on earth. The crime of the white South is centered in their racist unity of loyalty which blinds them to the real state of their society and its discontents” 0 likes
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