WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

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Armed for Nonviolence: Guns and the Civil Rights Movement

The dominant images of the civil rights movement's sit-ins, bus boycotts and marches reflect the "nonviolent" ethos of the era. But for those on the front lines of segregation in the deep South, bearing arms was not only a right, but a necessity. Journalist and former civil rights activist Charles E. Cobb Jr. joins us to talk about his book "This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible," and explore the role that armed self-defense played in the civil rights movement.

A History Of Armed Self-Defense

Faced with the prospect of overwhelming violence from state and federal authorities, Afro-Americans had to carefully weigh the prerogative of armed self-defense against the brutality that their resistance might elicit. In his book, Charles E. Cobb Jr. features images--some of them featured below--that illustrate the quiet ways in which civil rights activists protected themselves.

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted with permission from This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb Jr. Available from Basic Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2014

This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed


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