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The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movementby Lance Hill
Synopses & Reviews
In 1964 a small group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana, defied the nonviolence policy of the mainstream civil rights movement and formed an armed self-defense organization--the Deacons for Defense and Justice--to protect movement workers from vigilante and police violence. With their largest and most famous chapter at the center of a bloody campaign in the Ku Klux Klan stronghold of Bogalusa, Louisiana, the Deacons became a popular symbol of the growing frustration with Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent strategy and a rallying point for a militant working-class movement in the South.
Lance Hill offers the first detailed history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, who grew to several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the Deep South and led some of the most successful local campaigns in the civil rights movement. In his analysis of this important yet long-overlooked organization, Hill challenges what he calls "the myth of nonviolence"--the idea that a united civil rights movement achieved its goals through nonviolent direct action led by middle-class and religious leaders. In contrast, Hill constructs a compelling historical narrative of a working-class armed self-defense movement that defied the entrenched nonviolent leadership and played a crucial role in compelling the federal government to neutralize the Klan and uphold civil rights and liberties.
"An engrossing, well-written study."
— Journal of American Studies "This well-argued revisionist text should spur useful debate and encourage others to recast traditional civil rights-era narratives."
The Journal of American History "Hill's ground-breaking, historical narrative adds not only to Southern historiography, but to that of the United States as well."
Louisiana History "Hill has written a masterful account of a vital, understudied organization. This will undoubtedly be the book on the Deacons for a long time."
The Journal of Southern History "This is a significant book."
The North Carolina Historical Review "An engaging writer, Hill has written a graceful book that fills an important gap in civil rights scholarship."
Florida Historical Quarterly
Hill offers the first detailed history of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a black self-defense organization particularly influential in Louisiana and Mississippi from 1964 to 1967. Frustrated with the policy of nonviolence espoused by Martin Luther King Jr., the Deacons sought a new form of armed resistance to constant threats of violence from whites.
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History and Social Science » African American Studies » Civil Rights Movement