Yolanda Spivey: Black People Had No Choice But to Pick Up a Gun

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By Yolanda Spivey

After the end of slavery, African Americans were under the impression that their lives would be better, but in fact, their lives worsened.  Now, with the freedom to go anywhere they wanted to go, do anything they wanted to do, they were often persecuted by fellow White Americans who wanted them to basically “stay in their place.”

Lynchings became a constant in Southern and Mid-Western states, and Blacks hopelessly watched their communities and towns burn to the ground at the hands of racists.

An influx of Black men were going into the military and coming out, only to go home to an unfriendly America that treated them like sub-standard citizens.  Trained in the use of various firearms, they begin to put those skills to use.  They decided to use their military training to protect their neighborhoods when the government turned their backs on them.

One person in particular, Robert F. Williams was adamant on Black people arming themselves for protection.

Born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1925, Williams was against the pacifist movement that was made popular by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Instead, he felt that Blacks should exercise their second amendment right, which is the right to keep and bear arms.

He wrote a book called Negroes With Guns which became quite popular and was influential in the start of many other movements.

Williams applied for a charter with the National Rifle Association and eventually opened up an NRA chapter called the Black Armed Guard.  The group of 60 men were armed and ready to defend their neighborhoods against constant racist attacks. Williams called it “armed self-reliance,” and he insisted that he wasn’t trying to declare war, but only wanted to defend himself and his community.

Other groups such as the Deacons of Defense also believed that Blacks should arm themselves due to the violence and torture Blacks faced in their neighborhoods.  And the fact that the United States government did little to nothing to protect them gave them more ammunition to pick up a gun to protect themselves.

Eventually these groups fell from public view and were overshadowed by more younger, affluent and vocal groups such as The Black Panthers.

At an NAACP convention in 1959, Williams once said, “We as men should stand up as men and protect our women and children. I am a man, and I walk upright as a man should.  I will not crawl.”

Most recently, America has seen an influx of killings of unarmed Black people, particularly youths, at the hands of White men whether they are police officers or regular citizens.  It appears that lynchings have now taken on a different form.

So the question I ask today is should all Black people arm themselves with guns?  I’m curious to hear your responses.

Yolanda Spivey writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at  You can also visit her Facebook page