“I have never killed a bird nor shot a rabbit. I never liked fishing and always let others kill even the chickens which I ate. Nearly all my schoolmates in the South carried pistols. I never owned one. I could never conceive myself killing a human being. But in 1906 I rushed back from Alabama to Atlanta where my wife and six-year old child were living. A mob had raged for days killing Negroes. I bought a Winchester double-barreled shotgun and two dozen rounds of shells filled with buckshot. If a white mob had stepped on the campus where I lived I would without hesitation have sprayed their guts over the grass.” –W.E.B. DuBois, from “The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois.”
You may have read a lot of quotes from W.E.B. DuBois but how about that one? Well, it turns out DuBois and many other civil rights activists were proponents of the Second Amendment and encouraged Black people to pick up arms for personal protection, even if they discouraged them in service of political goals. That hidden gem of civil rights history is explained in “Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” by author Nicholas Johnson. In the book, Johnson puts a new face on gun culture which has long been represented as lily white.