If Slaves Had Guns

22th Regt. U.S. Colored TroopsSeriously, I am all for an honest debate about gun control and the Second Amendment, but this isn’t it.  There is something incredibly disturbing behind the assumption that Martin Luther King, who gave his life advocating for peace and non-violence, would support something called Gun Appreciation Day. What is even more ridiculous, however, is the claim made by Larry Ward that if blacks had guns than “perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”

I am not sure if Mr. Ward understands that he just made an argument for the strictest gun control legislation possible.  Whites exercised a great amount of control – through legal and extra-legal means – to ensure that slaves were not able to arm themselves.  They did so because they believed that such a scenario constituted a direct threat to their communities.  It goes without saying that they were probably right about that. 🙂

Someone should remind Mr. Ward that the slaves eventually did find a way to arm themselves, however, I sincerely doubt that he is looking to see such a scenario play out once again.

37 comments… add one
  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:10

    Too bad racial equality didn’t happen from day one. Then slaves wouldn’t have needed guns because they wouldn’t have been slaves.

  • Leonard Lanier Jan 21, 2013 @ 6:31

    Also, Mr. Ward’s analogy totally disregards Reconstruction, when militarily-trained African-American men had plenty of access to guns, but the Klan still won.

  • Bummer Jan 20, 2013 @ 17:04

    When Bummer’s son attended UCLA Law School, his constitutional mentor and instructor was Adam Winkler. He authored one of the most balanced histories of this country’s firearm debate. Winkler examines the issue from womb to tomb and exposes scenarios on both sides of the conflict. His book entitled “Gun Fight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America” was published in 2011 and opened avenues of thought this “old guy” had never considered and received the hard copy for Christmas.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 20, 2013 @ 14:53

    It’s easy to look back and imagine Blacks resisting slavery and terror with guns. But no question… had Larry Ward advocated such a thing in South Carolina or Virginia in 1860, they would have used the same rope on him they used on John Brown.
    I’m not confident Mr. Ward really believes what he’s saying.

    • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 15:17

      This is a good point. Ward’s argument is presentist. He would have gotten maybe as far as John Brown got with an arming the slaves idea.

  • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:17


    Writing at The Washington Post, Courtland Milloy profiles Charles Hicks, the son of civil rights activist Robert Hicks of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, “an organization of black men in Louisiana who used shotguns and rifles to repel attacks by white vigilantes during the 1960s.” As Milloy explains, this weekend Hicks will be honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C. and “also be taking a step for what the National Rifle Association has dubbed ‘National Rifle Appreciation Day.’”

    • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:24

      Thanks, but this post isn’t about the son of a civil rights leader. I am sure MLK is grateful that his legacy is being honored by focusing on guns.

      • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:42

        Who knows? He’s not here to tell us. And the son’s civil rights activist father used guns to ward off the KKK in the 1960s contemporary to MLK.

        On a personal aside my father was a high school principal during the desegregation of rural public schools across the South. He was verbally threatened by some KKK, white citizen council types in 1968-69 when the schools were preparing for integration. He was taking teachers to Southern University for training and the threats were bad enough to scare off all the teachers but one in a matter of weeks.

        My dad found out who was threatening him and the school teachers. My dad decided to confront him personally at the man’s house, of course taking a rifle and a pistol with him, and my dad threatened to kill the man if he stepped foot on school property or his own property.

        No violence happened when the school was integrated and nothing ever happened to my dad or one of the school teachers.

        And then life just moved on for the community.

        Guns, they have their place in our society.

        Everyone should also read up on what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has to say on the connection between guns and the civil rights movement. Thomas quotes Frederick Douglass.


        • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:45

          I am not making a case for or against the necessity of guns. The post was meant to point out the absurdity of the counterfactual.

          You are right that I don’t know how King would respond to such a form of remembrance, but can you point to anything in his life that would suggest that he might be receptive? I just don’t see it.

          • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:01

            Yes, Martin Luther King applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm.


            Civil-rights activists, even those committed to nonviolent resistance, had long appreciated the value of guns for self-protection. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm in 1956, after his house was bombed. His application was denied, but from then on, armed supporters guarded his home. One adviser, Glenn Smiley, described the King home as “an arsenal.” William Worthy, a black reporter who covered the civil-rights movement, almost sat on a loaded gun in a living-room armchair during a visit to King’s parsonage.

            • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:04

              What does this have to do with anything I’ve said? I am not making any point about the necessity of guns, regardless of color. Since when do we need a day set aside to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that sometimes we must engage in acts of self defense?

              No one is threatening to take away our guns.

              • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:11

                I’m confused now. You don’t see how Martin Luther King, Jr. would appreciate a gun appreciation day when he tried to legally carry a concealed firearm and he had a lot of guns at his house?

                His message of non-violence was about the violence of local or state government against blacks, not about blacks personally defending themselves from the attacks of individuals.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:15

                  If local law enforcement authorities (the guys with guns) in places like Montgomery, Alabama had done their jobs it is unlikely that King would have had to go to such extremes to protect his family.

      • Bill hockstad Jul 27, 2014 @ 10:14

        You forget Mr. King applied for and was denied a concealed weapons permit. So if he was so against guns why did he recognized he needed a firearm for protection?

        • Andy Hall Jul 27, 2014 @ 10:36

          Maybe because of fine upstanding southern citizens like this guy. Note the flag he displays next to the hanging effigy — seems familiar, huh?

    • Patrick Young Jan 20, 2013 @ 15:55

      Lyle, the article you cite to says that the Hicks family is still the target of white terrorists:

      “Just last year, for instance, on the King holiday, arsonists burned a
      car that belonged to Hicks’s sister in Bogalusa and attempted to burn
      the home where she and their mother live. His sister is an outspoken
      advocate for civil rights in Louisiana. Last week, a car was seen
      circling the block around their home, parked, then suspiciously sped
      away when neighbors approached. The FBI is investigating both incidents.”

      “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 1,000 hate groups are
      operating today in the United States, most of them neo-Nazis, Klansmen,
      white nationalists, neo-Confederates and racist skinheads with a
      particular antipathy for black people.”

      instead of the formation of black self-defense militias to protect
      against modern anti-black terrorists roused by anti-Obamaism, better law
      enforcement and increased hate crime penalties in Louisiana would be a
      more effective approach to dealing with violence from neo-confederates
      white nationalists, etc described in the article you brought to our
      attention. Intercommunal violence is rarely a path to peace.

      • Lyle7 Jan 20, 2013 @ 20:45


        How do you know what happened in Bogalusa was due to anti-Obamaism or was done by neo-Confederate white nationalists? I’d say the latter is more plausible than the former though, if it was a white person who even did it. The former is probably not plausible at all. I don’t know of any violent anti-Obamaism in America and certainly haven’t read about it in Louisiana.

        And if these white jerks you’re imagining kill someone they’re going to be tried for murder. No special law is needed. They’ll be lucky not to get the death penalty. Louisianians like the death penalty Pat.

        • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 4:11

          Lyle, the article you brought to our attention said that the same pattern of anti-black violence that existed in the 1960s and led to the formation of a black vigilance group persists today. It would seem as though the local police are not doing their job. Typically the FBI only gets involved in this sort of case when there is a suspicion of failure by the cops, often based on racial bias.

          Also, you refer to the “white jerks you’re imagining”. First, I’m not imagining them. It is the man you approvingly brought to our attention who is “imagining” this. Second, if things are as he says, then the “imagined” perpetrators are not “white jerks”, they are hate criminal or terrorists. Third, I’d like to think we should not have to wait until a black person gets murdered before the cops act. Fourth, the sort of multi-decade racial violence you brought up is precisely the reason we need hate crime legislation. Hate crime legislation is no more a “special law” than enhanced penalties for gang violence, terrorism, or killing a cop. Active enforcement of hate crime laws heads off violence.

          That said, I appreciate you bringing the Southern Poverty Law Center statements to my attention. The SPLC is a vital organization and your giving their work wider attention is greatly appreciated. I worked with Mark Potok from the Center of a hate crime killing investigation and, like you, I have a great respect for their work and his opinion.

          • Lyle7 Jan 21, 2013 @ 6:41

            Of all of the murders in Louisiana last year I don’t know of a single white nationalist or neo-Confederate murder of any black person. Lots of blacks were murder in Louisiana last year of course, just not by any of these groups the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks.

            Who knows what the FBI will come up with in this case.

            And it’s also nice to know the NRA has got Mr. Hicks back.

            • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 9:05

              Lyle, once again, it was an article you directed our attention to that made those points. I never referenced any murders at all in Louisiana last year, nor did the article in question. If what the article said was not true as to its other points, then Charles Hicks would appear to be delusional in his desire to own a gun to use against modern day white supremacists and he would seem to be a bad example for gun-rights advocates to point to. I know neither Mr. Hicks nor his sister and I’ll wager few who read this have ever heard of him before, but even if the supposition of white supremacism being behind the incidents proves true, better law enforcement would be a better solution than a new round of vigilance committees.

              I’m not at all sure what to make of your statement that “Lots of blacks were murder in Louisiana last year of course, just not
              by any of these groups the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks.” Wasn’t it your point that blacks need the NRA to protect themselves against racist whites? If not, then….

              Otherwise why cite to an article on the son of a man who organized armed black self-defense who now feels that in the face of threats to his sister due to her activism he now has to renew that tradition? If there is nothing to fear from white supremicist terrorism, then why should “the NRA [have] Mr. Hicks back”, as you say?

              Anyway, nothing I say, and I’m sure you would agree, should be seen as disparaging the fine work of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

              • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 9:10

                By the way, these are the hate groups active in Louisiana according to the SPLC
                American Aryan Reich

                New OrleansAryan Nations 88
                SlaughterAryan Nations 88
                CalhounAryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
                ConverseChristian Defense League
                MandevilleChurch of the Sons of Yhvh
                CalhounCouncil of Conservative Citizens
                St. AmantCouncil of Conservative Citizens
                ShreveportDixie Rangers Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
                WalkerEuropean-American Unity and Rights Organization
                ThibodauxEuropean-American Unity and Rights Organization
                MandevilleJewish Defense League

                League of the South
                LogansportM.A.C.S. Klan Merchandise

                Nation of Islam
                New OrleansNation of Islam
                Baton RougeNation of Islam
                ShreveportNation of Islam
                MonroeNational Black Foot Soldier Network
                St. Tammany ParishNational Socialist Movement

                New Black Panther Party
                GueydanNew Black Panther Party

                Rebel Brigade Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

                South Africa Project
                ConverseTrue Invisible Empire Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

                United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
                ShreveportWhite Riders RC

                • Lyle7 Jan 21, 2013 @ 11:33

                  What murders did all these groups commit last year in Louisiana?

                  • Pat Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 13:58

                    Not sure what the relevance of the question is, but I’d be happy to know.

        • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2013 @ 4:27

          Lyle, you asked me: “How do you know what happened in Bogalusa was due to anti-Obamaism or was done by neo-Confederate white nationalists?”

          I never said that it was. The reference to neo-Confederates et al as possibly behind the incidents comes from the article you cited in the Washington Post. The article cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as the source of this surmise. I am merely commenting on the evidence you yourself presented and I assumed you were holding out the SPLC as an expert on this case since you appeared to agree with the article. I have no independent knowledge of this case apart from the materials you directed our attention to.

          I did make the point that the expert group your article referenced, the SPLC, says there is an increase in anti-black extremism since the election of Obama in 2008. The point I made did not specifically deal with Bogalusa, but merely was intended to counter the argument that the solution to this supposed racist terrorism was the creation of armed black self-defense organizations (the so-called Second Amendment Solution) and to make the suggestion that better policing and tougher hate crime laws were more ffctive at heading off violence.

  • Brendan Bossard Jan 20, 2013 @ 9:39

    Ward certainly picked the wrong gun rights “advocate” in Rev. King, who made peaceful demonstration his policy. I believe Rev. King, if alive and on the show, would have made a much better counter-argument than Maria’s, which did not answer Ward’s point. (I don’t know Maria’s last name.) The fact that black people were chattel and therefore did not have the right to own guns just begs the very question that Mr. Ward raised. Ward would have been better served to celebrate John Brown’s birthday. Brown would certainly have agreed with him.

    And a side note, not necessarily addressed to Mr. Levin, I would be cautious about lumping all gun-rights advocates into the “white supremacist survivalist” category. I am a strong advocate for gun rights, and I am not a white supremacist. That is a rather insulting stereotype. It is the same tactic used by whites against blacks to try to perpetuate the belief that blacks are less human than whites. Remember the Golden Rule.

    • longislandwins Jan 20, 2013 @ 10:18

      I don’t think most gun owners agree with the notion that they own guns to defend against government tyranny. Most that I know own them for hunting and to a lesser extent for personal protection. However, the argument that personally owned guns will be used against government officials is a cry I am hearing quite often right now.

      -Pat Young

      • Brendan Bossard Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:51

        I agree that most gun-owners own them because they like to hunt and have a means of protection. I disagree that more people are saying that “personally owned guns will be used against government officials.” I have heard a lot of gun-rights advocates cite the threat of armed rebellion against tyrants a la the American Revolution as a reason for the existence of the Second Amendment, but never have I heard an NRA representative or other gun-rights advocate endorse the assassination of government officials just because they don’t happen to do what the assassin wants them to do. None of our current crop of politicians and bureaucrats are tyrants.

        But I do not want to get too far off-topic. My main point was and is this: that I believe that Ward actually was making a good point, albeit sloppily. I don’t like what he did, because it incorrectly applies the lessons that Dr. King tried to teach. He plays too much like a leech. But his point that slave-owners were tyrants and were deathly afraid of armed slaves is very good, and one that should not be dismissed as a silly argument made by a proxy for white supremacists. That is an ad hominem argument, and hurts the cause of civil rights instead of helping it.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:00

          You said: “But his point that slave-owners were tyrants and were deathly afraid of
          armed slaves is very good, and one that should not be dismissed as a
          silly argument made by a proxy for white supremacists.”

          He didn’t say that slave owners were tyrants or that they were afraid of arming slaves. All he said was that if they were armed that slavery may not have existed or that it would have existed for a shorter period of time. It’s an incredibly shallow argument because he fails to acknowledge that they were prevented from doing so through legal and extra-legal means.

          • Brendan Bossard Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:20

            You and I may have to agree to disagree about the argument’s shallowness. You and I both know that sometimes the words that come out do not fully express what the person is thinking. The tyrant-rebel principle lay behind the words of Ward’s argument. He just made a mess of that point. The fact remains that the restrictions imposed on black people by slaveowners, including that of the acquisition of firearms by legal and extra-legal means, was an outgrowth of their fear of rebellion.

            I personally feel like slapping Ward on the backside of his head and saying, “You nitwit!”

            • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 12:24

              If you look at the video it looks like he was reading talking point prepared by someone else. Neither guest made a convincing case for their respective positions. Looks like we disagree over how to judge Ward’s statement.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 20, 2013 @ 11:55

      Just to go on record that I am not in any way making a connection between gun advocates and white supremacist survivalists. That would be silly.

  • longislandwins Jan 20, 2013 @ 7:00

    Civil War histories that I read as a boy often noted that at the
    beginning of the war the South had an advantage in that many of its men
    had experience with guns. This was attributed to their greater
    participation in hunting. I used to wonder at this since there are
    squirrels and deer all over the North. I later learned that those
    Southern white men were armed for the feared eventual slave uprisings
    that were the opposite side of the “slaves love slavery” coin. Our
    representatives rarely discuss how America’s gun industry has played a
    vital role in the suppression of the rights of minorities.

    would take the NRA “liberty” argument more seriously if instead of
    merely appealing to the white survivalists with it they said something
    along the lines of “We favor gun rights so armed African Americans can
    insure through the use of violence the full respect for their rights viz
    voter suppression by boards of elections” or “We believe Latinos need
    to be armed to prevent their families from being broken up by a
    deportation-hungry Federal government.” We will never hear that. Ever.

    pro-gun lobby instead focuses on the fear of some whites that their
    rights are under assault, and that deadly weapons, potentially turned on
    members our armed forces, will somehow preserve those rights.

    -Pat Young

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