Deacons for Defense and Justice were a network of armed groups active in the civil rights struggle in Louisiana and Mississippi, mostly in smaller rural communities, where Ku Klux Klan terrorism and the official wing of the apartheid police state operated hand in hand against working class black communities. They bravely defended themselves and their neighbors, as well as civil rights activists organizing and protesting in their towns, including when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr visited their communities.
armed African-Americans defended their communities with guns and managed to scare the cowardly white supremacist movement away, to maintain a modicum of safety for their neighborhoods. The Deacons are an excellent example of working class self-organization, and one that can be seen as a predecessor to the better known Black Panther Party as well as other working class African-American movements such as The League of Revolutionary Black Workers.
The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement. There is also a made for TV movie about the Deacons For Defense.
UPDATE: This is still living history. The Hicks family in Bogalusa were recently fire-bombed by cowardly racist morons. Robert Hicks had been a central member of the Deacons in Bogalusa and a continued to be a fearless defender of civil rights there for decades. The family is now living in fear due to some racist idiot who doesn't understand how this system actually works, and has been tricked by the powerful into blaming the powerless for their problems. Pathetic. Consider ways you can show the family some solidarity.