David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito are no slouches when it comes to understanding American history, especially as it pertains to the civil rights struggle. It can even be said that they know quite a bit about T.R.M. Howard, a Mississippi surgeon and a leader for mass equality under the law—after all, they have written several books about the man.
And one thing they make clear is that the inalienable right to self-defense played a key role in Howard’s life and his struggle against the Jim Crow laws.
The two academics recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Examiner in which they discuss this very theme. One point they make is this: “Guns were always a key feature of Howard’s life ever since his impoverished childhood in rural Kentucky. Every Sunday his mother gave him a quarter to buy four gun shells. Her instructions were to return with either two rabbits or two squirrels, or one of each, for the dinner table. But the Howard family understood that guns were not just for getting food. They would have agreed with anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells who, in the 1890s, after blacks in nearby Paducah used guns to drive off attackers, advised that ‘a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.’”
The Beitos go on to explain the larger role that firearms played as African Americans championed their cause.