THIS NONVIOLENT STUFF'LL GET YOU KILLED by Charles E. Cobb Jr

THIS NONVIOLENT STUFF'LL GET YOU KILLED

How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

KIRKUS REVIEW

A frank look at the complexities and contradictions of the civil rights movement, particularly with regard to the intertwined issues of nonviolence and self-defense.

A former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, veteran journalist Cobb (On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail, 2007, etc.) studies the civil rights revolution at the grass-roots level rather than through the leadership. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference officially adopted nonviolent resistance in the form of sit-ins, boycotts and demonstrations, yet these tactics were viewed skeptically by some activists. Violence against black resisters was so prevalent and pernicious, Cobb writes, that retaliatory violence was neither unheard of nor indeed unexpected. The peaceable sit-in at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Feb. 1, 1960, for example, contrasted markedly with a subsequent violent clash between black demonstrators and the white mob that set upon them during a sit-in in Jacksonville, Florida. Self-defense with firearms often went hand in hand with nonviolent resistance—indeed, it “ensured the survival…of the freedom struggle itself.” Cobb backs up this rather perplexing statement with a variety of historical material, pointing out that blacks in the rural South had relied on guns to protect their families against white supremacist violence since the time of Reconstruction. The author also characterizes slave insurrections as “the taproot of the modern freedom struggle” and explores the contradiction of African-Americans serving in the U.S. military while being deprived of basic civil rights. Yet while retaliatory violence might have been the norm in some communities, it could not bring the vast, radical change that nonviolence did.

Thought-provoking and studded with piercing ironies.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-465-03310-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014




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