Liberal WashPost Columnist Milloy Notes How Guns Helped Civil Rights Movement Stave Off KKK

Liberal Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy is no stranger to NewsBusters criticism, but today he merits positive attention for going against the liberal grain on a policy issue: gun control.

While various liberals and some civil rights movement veterans have expressed outrage at the January 19 Gun Appreciation Day celebration -- noting its proximity to the federal observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- Milloy noted in his January 16 column the role that guns played in protecting civil rights activists in the 1960s (emphases mine):

When Charles “Chuck” Hicks does the Martin Luther King Jr. Day peace and freedom walks Saturday, he’ll also be taking a step for what the National Rifle Association has dubbed “National Rifle Appreciation Day.” That’s because Hicks is the son of Robert Hicks, a prominent leader of the legendary 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.

“The Klan would drive through our neighborhood shooting at us, shooting into our homes,” recalled Hicks, 66, who grew up in Bogalusa, La., and has been a civil rights activist in the District for more than 35 years. “The black men in the community wouldn’t stand for it. You shoot at us, we shoot back at you. I’m convinced that without our guns, my family and many other black people would not be alive today.”

As one of the organizers for the weekend’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities, Hicks’s pro-gun stance may seem like something of an anomaly. But even though King may best be remembered for his philosophy of nonviolent protest, the fact is that black civil rights activists in many small towns throughout the South carried guns or received protection from groups like the Deacons for Defense and Justice.


Infringe on the Second Amendment? No way, say 30 percent of African Americans (myself included), according to a recent Pew poll. No doubt many of them believe, like Hicks, that it’s better to have a gun and not need it than not have one and wish you did.

Of course, that leaves 70 percent of black people who favor more stringent gun control — in part because gun violence among blacks takes a higher toll than anything the Klan could inflict these days. Hicks sympathizes, but he believes more emphasis should be put on self-control.


Hicks, past president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1808, will probably pay homage to the Deacons for Defense and Justice and the courage they showed in protecting their communities.

“Growing up, we had a lot of admiration for the Deacons,” Hicks said. “Their philosophy was, ‘It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.’ ”

With guns in hand, they didn’t have to do either.

I don't know Hicks's politics, but I'm guessing that the former labor union boss is hardly a conservative.

There are pro-gun rights liberals out there, and the history of gun control in America, particularly in the post-Reconstruction South is checkered with racism.

Kudos to Milloy for bringing these facts to bear in his column.

Guns Charles Hicks Courtland Milloy