Thursday, January 26, 2012

Local History: The Deacons For Defense and Justice

The 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.

Faced with no other options, these 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.

To learn more on this quintessential radical Louisiana history, read Lance Hill's book (a professor at Tulane University), which is an excellent and inspiring account, called  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.


  1. The Deacons of Defense were founded in Bogalusa and folks say so was the KKK. Visit Bogalusa! You can feel history in the air so thick you can cut it!

  2. Good post!

    People like to write the Deacons out of civil rights history because it doesn't fit with what they like to call "non-violence," which seems to consist ONLY of whining, begging and pleading for mercy from your oppressor. (In my experience, that's not a very effective way to handle a bully.)
    But there's on old saying I believe is very apt: Truth and a firearm is more effective tan Truth alone.
    The Deacons have a special place in my heart.
    Stand-up guys, all the way.

    liberty & justice,