Monday, January 19, 2009

Remember MLK? Better yet, remember the Deacons.

An American Vignette

In November 1964, a group of black American citizens in Jonesboro, Louisiana led by Earnest "Chilly Willy" Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded a militia to protect civil rights workers against the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. They called it the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Most of them were war veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II, and they armed themselves with military pattern semi-automatic rifles, carbines and pistols. Ironically, these are the same types of firearms that liberal politicians (including Barack Obama) are seeking to ban today as so-called "assault weapons."

The Jonesboro chapter later organized a Deacons chapter in Bogalusa, Louisiana led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. In turn, the Jonesboro chapter initiated a regional organizing campaign and eventually formed 21 chapters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Deacons' confrontation with the Klan on 3 February 1965 in Bogalusa at the "Skirmish at Andrey's Cafe" -- when the Deacons came to the aid of two white civil rights workers under attack -- was instrumental in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the black community and enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and neutralize the Klan. They were so successful that by 1968 they had pretty much faded into obscurity and disbanded, having accomplished their mission.

Martin Luther King and other advocates of non-violence mobilized sympathy for the cause of equal rights. But it was the guns of the Deacons that protected them while they slept and scared the federal government into action. Ironic, isn't it, that the martyred Martin Luther King, Jr. should have his own holiday while the Deacons are largely unknown and unheralded even by their own descendants?

So take a moment, this MLK Day, to remember the Deacons. They acted in the finest traditions of the American armed citizenry.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Charlton Heston marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and Atlanta.

There is no stronger representation of true freedom and American spirit than these two bravest individuals in a time when madness was rampant.

God bless their souls, and please give us more leaders like them.


Grumpyunk said...

Even though I grew up during that period, I'd never heard of, The Deacons, till I read your chapter of Absolved.
I bought the book and recommend it to everyone. Amazon has it $21 bucks shipped to the door.