Today we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And as we do so, we’d like to reflect on how his work for racial equality in America had so much to do with the right to bear arms. Do you know the story of how crucial armed self-defense was to the modern civil rights movement? Do you understand how gun control in America is rooted in a racist scheme for disarming African-Americans?
If you have the good fortune of not working today, you have a bit of extra time to read. Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy this short suggested reading list (with one video!) for exploring the connection between gun rights and race-based civil rights. If you enjoy the online articles, consider ordering one of the books or looking for it at your local public library.
Both of these articles provide good overviews of how gun control in America is rooted in the fear that oppressed African-Americans would be able to enjoy the same Second Amendment rights as white citizens. The Kopel feature is easier to digest, while the Cramer article comes from a law review and is somewhat longer and more technical.
If you weren’t daunted by the Cramer article, give this excellent work of legal history a try. An expert on gun rights in history, Halbrook has also authored fascinating case studies of Swiss armed neutrality and gun control in Nazi Germany. Here he examines how racial factors affected gun control in the aftermath of the Civil War.
These two articles and one video (by NRA Commentator Colion Noir) together provide a good summary of how armed self-defense was a critical part of the struggle for equality by African-Americans in this period.
With a title intended to evoke the book by Williams, this study by law professor Nicholas Johnson looks at historical gun ownership in black communities under segregation. It also carries this story into the present, examining the diversity of opinions on guns among African-Americans today.
Civil rights scholar Charles E. Cobb Jr. draws on both historical research and personal experience in exploring why the movement for racial equality could not have survived without the ability for members to defend themselves with firearms.