America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 26

have been no surprise to Turnbow.)
In Bogalusa, La., in 1965, Robert
Hicks, one of the early leaders of the
Deacons for Defense, repelled terrorists who attacked his home using a
During the civil-rights movemodern copy of the Winchester rifle
ment of the 1960s, repeating firearms
Wells had extolled nearly a century
helped Black activists survive. In
earlier. In Birmingham, Ala., legCarroll County, Miss., activist Leola
endary activist the Rev. Fred ShutBlackmon repelled Klansmen who
tlesworth was protected by armed
set a cross on fire in her yard. " That
" Civil Rights Guards " after suffernight when they set that cross afire
ing several violent attacks. Shutat my house ... I thought to cut them
tlesworth's colleague, The Rev. Ed
down, but I didn't. I just let some bulGardner would later describe how
lets through behind them. I had a rifle. they survived those times with the
It would shoot 16 times. And I just lit
aid of his " non-violent Winchester. "
out up there and starting shooting. "
When Thurgood Marshall and his
One county over from Blackyoung assistant, future federal court
mon, activist Hartman Turnbow
judge, Constance Baker Motley,
staunched a firebomb attack on
were litigating school desegregation
his home by deploying his 16-shot
cases for the NAACP, they, too, were
semi-automatic rifle. The next morn- guarded by armed men.
ing, the license plate of the local sherJudge Motley described one epiiff was found in Turnbow's driveway.
sode this way: " While in BirmingTurnbow also appreciated that
ham ... we stayed in Arthur Shores'
the capabilities of his semi-auspacious new home on the city's outtomatic rifle were rivaled, and
skirts. This house had been bombed
maybe exceeded, by another comon several occasions, but because
mon firearm, the shotgun. Turnwe could not stay in a hotel or motel
bow described his calculation this
in Birmingham, we had to take up
way: " The next year when they shot
Shores' offer of his bomb-prone
over here, I had got an automatic
abode. ... When Thurgood and I
shotgun, Remington 12-gauge, and
arrived, the garage door was wide
them high-velocity buckshot. So I
open. Inside were six or eight Black
jumped up and run out and turned
men with shotguns and machine
it loose. " (In 1997, the U.S. Joint
guns who had been guarding the
Service Combat Shotgun Report
house since the last bombing. ...
confirmed that, within 40 yards, a
When we went to court the next day,
shotgun loaded with buckshot can
the driver of our car and one other
be superior to many repeating rifles, man in the front passenger seat cara conclusion that clearly would
ried guns in their pockets. "

Daisy Bates, who shepherded
the Little Rock Nine through the
turmoil of desegregation efforts
in Arkansas, wrote about taking
her turn in the armed watch of her
home, wielding a venerable semi-automatic .45-caliber 1911 pistol. One
night she shot multiple rounds to
repel a man who had thrown a flaming missile at her home and was
about to launch another. He had the
good sense to retreat, and Bates survived to carry on the fight.
Throughout the South, the Deacons for Defense and Justice would
protect activists in a variety of contexts. In 1966, Martin Luther King,
Jr. and others gathered to support
a wounded James Meredith and to
continue his " Mississippi March
Against Fear. " The discussion about
whether to use the Deacons as security illuminates the worry within the
leadership that legitimate self-defense might spill over into political violence, which the non-violent
movement dearly hoped to avoid.
As movement leaders gathered in
Memphis, a vanload of Deacons
pulled up and disarmed. Some of
them were carrying semi-automatic
M-1 Garand rifles (the WWII infantry rifle that Gen. George Patton
called " the greatest battle implement
ever devised " and which the United
States government has sold to the
public for decades through the
Civilian Marksmanship Program).
Representatives of the NAACP
and the Urban League thought it
was too much of a risk to have the
Deacons at the March. King ultimately sided with the leaders of the
Congress of Racial Equality and the
Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Committee to welcome the Deacons. Although they would not take
a visible role in the march, armed
Deacons remained close, surveying the route and guarding campsites. A subsequent interview with
Deacon Charles Sims indicates that,
in addition to M1 Garands, Deacons also were armed with M1 carbines. Sims said, " I was carrying two
snub-nosed .38s ... and had three
men riding down the highway with

26	

Photo: Jack Thornell / AP

James Meredith (in the white hat)
walks along U.S. Highway 51 with
a handful of supporters during his
march against fear in 1966.

february 2021 I america's 1 st freedom



America's First Freedom - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of America's First Freedom - February 2021

Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 5
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 6
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 7
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 8
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 9
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 10
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 11
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 12
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 13
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 14
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 15
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 16
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 17
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 18
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 19
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 20
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 21
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 22
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 23
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 24
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 25
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 26
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 27
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 28
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 29
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 30
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 31
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 32
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 33
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 34
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 35
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 36
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 37
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 38
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 39
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 40
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 41
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 42
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 43
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 44
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 45
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 46
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 47
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 48
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 49
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 50
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 51
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 52
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 53
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 54
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 55
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 56
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW4
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