The National Rifle Association and Blacks: A Surprising Connection

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It’s called “Negroes With Guns.” Robert Franklin Williams wrote this classic that was first published in 1962.

Williams was, like Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist. Williams rebooted the nascent NAACP chapter in his hometown of Monroe, N.C. in 1955.

Unlike King, Williams wasn’t totally committed to nonviolence. It was fine as a tactic to be used during desegregation demonstrations, Williams said, but when it came to the Klan shooting up the black community, then it was time for blacks to arm up.

So arm up blacks in Monroe he did.  When Whitlock reads it, he’ll come across this on page 57.

“So we started arming ourselves. I wrote to the National Rifle Association in Washington, which encourages veterans to keep in shape to defend their native land, and asked for a charter, which we got.”

Hmm. The NRA giving a charter to a bunch of black folks in Monroe, N.C. Doesn’t sound KKK-ish to me.

And if Whitlock reads Timothy B. Tyson’s biography of Williams called “Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power,” he’ll find Williams saying the following on page 128, part of an exchange Williams had with North Carolina’s attorney general.

“I’m a member of the National Rifle Association.”

Just to recap: ex-Confederates in Tennessee founded the KKK in 1866. Ex-Union officers founded the NRA in 1871.

The KKK has a history of using terrorism and violence against African Americans. The NRA has no such sordid history.

When Williams and the blacks of Monroe, N.C. needed someone to stand with them against Klan violence in the 1950s and early 1960s, it was the NRA that gave them a charter.

Liberal white folks of that era – and liberal black ones too – were only too content to leave Williams and the blacks of Monroe, N.C. to the tender mercies of the KKK.

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