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Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill Essay


Introduction

Racial discrimination was very common in the ancient days since the whites segregated African Americans in every aspect of life. The blacks were not comfortable with the segregation that denied them their civil rights. Therefore, several African-American activists formed the civil rights movement to terminate the discrimination.

In the book, The Deacons for Defense: Armed resistance and civil rights movement, published by the University of North Carolina Press (Hill 2004, 23), it is mentioned that the civil rights activists protested without using violence by disobeying the government authority. However, the nonviolent protests had limited success, and the African Americans decided to go for armed self-defense.

The book describes the tension and struggles that existed between the African Americans and the members of the white citizens’ council, Ku Klux Klan. This paper will give a stringent analysis of the book to assess the author’s success in giving a convincing interpretation of the contribution of the armed defense team in obtaining civil rights for African Americans.

Discussion of the major topics in Lance Hill’s book

In the “Introduction,” Hill gives a controversial scenario that prepares the readers that indeed, there was a problem between the whites and the African Americans. The racism issue did not only lie in the adults but also did implant in the children’s minds. The Bogalusa Junior High school had integrated the white and black students. However, the white students felt more powerful than the blacks did, and they harassed them from time to time.

The whites could hit, spit on the blacks and even step on them intentionally, and the blacks could remain silent. However, as the situation continued, Royan Burris, a black civil rights leader, felt intimidated, and he ordered all the black students to seek revenge for every ill action.

He ordered the black students to hit back if a white student dared to hit them. Similarly, if a white student spat on a black student, the black would be obliged to spit back (Hill 2004, 1). After heeding to Burris advice, the school turned into a war zone as frequent fights erupted between the white and the black students.

Paul Farmer, the president of the white citizens’ council, could not take it anymore. Together with the local Ku Klux Klan, Farmer stood in the middle of the street waiting for the school’s door to open. With a corked gun, Farmer wanted to destroy the black students of Bogalusa Junior High school.

However, African Americans could not allow the ill incident to happen. Led by Royan Burris, the unyielding team of black men was on the other side of the street to protect the black children just in case a riot erupted. Essentially, the unyielding black men comprised of the members of the Deacons for Defense and Justice Movement. Earlier on, the Klansmen and the Deacons had engaged in shooting skirmishes, and the Deacons had emerged as the winners.

Luckily enough, the police arrived in time to defuse the tensed moment. The police ordered the Deacons to be the first ones to leave, but they refused. Instead, the Deacons said that they were not willing to leave in peace; and that infuriated Farmer who initiated the war. As soon as Farmer pulled his pistol, the Deacons responded by drawing their weapons, and within no time, the place turned into a war zone.

Essentially, the Deacons had faced death several times in their life; therefore, the Klansmen could not draw them back. Finally, the Klansmen flinched with the array of weapons that the Deacons were armed with, and they reluctantly surrendered. Ever since that day, Burris noted that the armed defense solved the African Americans’ problems (Hill 2004, 2).

Having drawn the attention of the readers, Lance Hill takes the readers through a series of actions that lead to the birth of the Deacons of Self Defense movement. Indeed, the white supremacist violence was on the rise as the Ku Klux Klan beat and imprisoned the nonviolent civil right activists.

In chapter one, two, and three, Hill displays the disagreements that brought tension between the nonviolent movements and the Deacons who used arms to obtain their civil rights. Indeed, the civil rights movement strictly adhered to the religion that opposed armed self-defense.

However, the whites had taken advantage of the nonviolent blacks to molest them. In the subtitle, “Onto Bogalusa,” Hill asserts that it was difficult for the blacks to obtain jobs, as the jobs were reserved for the whites. The blacks survived only if they won the sympathy of the whites (Hill 2004, 11). The few blacks who were lucky to obtain jobs in the pine plantation farms lived in fear, as they were not sure of when the next riot would erupt.

In the subtitle, “The Bogalusa Chapter,” Hill described the kind of life that the African American lived in Bogalusa. The blacks had no right to vote. At one time, the nonviolent protestors, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), planned a campaign to air their views, but the Bogalusa Community council requested for postponement of the campaign to avert CORE’s plans.

CORE leaders were urged to give the Bogalusa community council about six months to resolve the dispute. The white leaders took advantage of the black leaders to negotiate and postpone issues, but the postponement would never get any viable solution to the issues. Therefore, blacks continued to live in agony (Hill 2004, 89). The whites could beat up the blacks without any reason whenever they had a chance, and nobody cared.

Indeed, African Americans could not win without violence. In the subtitle, “The Spring Campaign,” it is evident that the blacks noticed that the nonviolent movements were fruitless. Fredrick Kirkpatrick and other activists agreed to combine efforts with the Deacons to fight for the civil rights of the African Americans. Earnest Thomas was one of the activists who had experienced segregation since his childhood.

Therefore, Thomas was swayed easily to become a founder of the Deacons for Defense and Justice Movement. The armed Deacons fought for the civil rights of African Americans.

Within no time, the movement became famous. The gun battle became the order of the day as the deacons fought with the state police and the deputized firefighters. The Deacons purposed to train black teenagers to become fighters, and they even organized fight matches for the students (Hill 2004, 119).

Finally, Hill explained how the Deacons for Defense team were able to obtain victory from their armed self-defense in the subtitle, “Victory.”

The blacks were able to demand their rights for equal educational opportunities and rights for equal employment. African Americans were able to have equal access to public facilities. From Hill’s point of view, the armed self-defense movement played a great role in ensuring that the African Americans obtained their civil rights.

Historical evidence to support the interpretation of the book

In the entire book, Lance Hill insists that indeed, unarmed self-defense would not bear any fruits in the struggle for African rights. To defend his interpretation, Hill uses various primary and secondary sources. Hill uses eyewitness accounts, interviews, FBI records, newspaper reports, publications, biographies, and journal articles support his interpretation.

The most interesting primary source that Hill uses is the eyewitness account of an individual who visited Martin Luther King’s home. Essentially, Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the individuals who urged people to adopt the non-violent protest against the discrimination of African Americans. However, the eyewitness was surprised to find an arsenal of weapons in the king’s homestead (Hill 2004, 2).

The king had requested for gun permits for his guards for his protection. This was an ironical situation for the king who opposed armed self-defense. In other words, Hill supported the fact that even the individuals who advocate for peace and unarmed self-defense were doing it for publicity; yet, they essentially needed armed self-defense for their safety.

The most significant secondary sources that Hill used to support his argument were the journal articles. The articles indicated that the self-defense groups were there even before the emergence of the Deacons for Defense Movement. However, the secret groups could not fight the Ku Klux Klan. The journals indicated that Martin Luther King Jr. had a nonviolent civil right organization that welcomed individuals who wanted to fight for their rights without violence.

However, the majority of the African American men refused to join such organizations that were not fruitful (Hill 2004, 4). Essentially, nonviolent protests encouraged the master-slave relationship. African Americans would thus live in oppression and fear. The journals stated that the Deacons were unique, and their armed self-defense strategies were successful in fighting for the civil rights of the African Americans.

Lance Hill’s conclusions

The armed self-defense during the civil rights campaigns was different from the one during the black power movement. Essentially, the civil rights campaign advocated for nonviolent protests of civil resistance and civil disobedience, where, the activists were not armed.

The nonviolent protests of the African Americans created conflicts between the government and the activists, but they did not achieve much in their struggle to fight racial discrimination. The only achievement during the civil rights campaign was the passage of the civil rights act of 1964. Although the act banned racial and religious discrimination, prejudice still prevailed.

The blacks received lower wages than the whites did, and there were other unspoken cases of racial discrimination. The activists felt that they needed a strong movement that would hasten the process of giving the blacks equal opportunities like those of the whites. Therefore, the black power movement came up to combat the weaknesses of the civil rights movement.

The movement employed force as the activists could use violence to obtain what they wanted. According to Lance Hill, the black power movement enabled blacks to be proud of their race. It enhanced their self-esteem, and the blacks easily joined political parties to aspire to the ideas of the whites. The militant activities of the black power movement contributed greatly to the decline of the civil rights movement (Hill 2004, 256).

The black power movement gave birth to positive developments. The developments leading to an increased demand for black power, which marked a new phase in the struggle for freedom for African Americans. Generally, Hill asserts that the armed self-defense of the Deacons for Defense Movement and the Black Power Movement contributed greatly towards the attainment of the freedom for the African Americans.

Reference

Hill, Lance. Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 18). Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-deacons-for-defense-armed-resistance-in-the-civil-rights-movement-by-lance-hill/

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"Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill." IvyPanda, 18 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/history-deacons-for-defense-armed-resistance-in-the-civil-rights-movement-by-lance-hill/.

1. IvyPanda. "Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill." March 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-deacons-for-defense-armed-resistance-in-the-civil-rights-movement-by-lance-hill/.


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IvyPanda. "Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill." March 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-deacons-for-defense-armed-resistance-in-the-civil-rights-movement-by-lance-hill/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill." March 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/history-deacons-for-defense-armed-resistance-in-the-civil-rights-movement-by-lance-hill/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill'. 18 March.

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