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Guns kept the Klan enemies at bay in Deep South

Saturday, January 1st, 2000

This article was originally published in the Grand Forks Herald on 10/09/94. http://www.gfherald.com
Posted for educational purposes only.

Prof. John Salter is the Director of the Indian Studies Program at the University of North Dakota.

By John R. Salter Jr.

GRAND FORKS — The Herald’s Oct. 2 Focus page features lots of seriously misleading material: A ridiculous anti-NRA cartoon from the New Republic and a scare feature on low-membership para-military fringe groups drawn from the Chicago Tribune (Page 1D). I’m alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms. I’m a life member of NRA.

In the early 1960s, I taught at Tougaloo College — a black school in Mississippi. My wife, Eldri, and I were extremely active in the civil rights movement and, among other things, I was chairman of the strategy committee of the Jackson Movement during the historic demonstrations in the spring and summer of 1963.

I was beaten and arrested many times and hospitalized twice. This happened to many, many people in the movement. No one knows what kind of massive racist retaliation would have been directed against grassroots black people had the black community not had a healthy measure of firearms within it.

When the campus of Tougaloo College was fired on by KKK-type racial night-riders, my home was shot up and a bullet missed my infant daughter by inches. We received no help from the Justice Department and we guarded our campus — faculty and students together — on that and subsequent occasions. We let this be known. The racist attacks slackened considerably. Night-riders are cowardly people — in any time and place — and they take advantage of fear and weakness.

Later, I worked for years in the Deep South as a full-time civil rights organizer. Like a martyred friend of mine, NAACP staffer Medgar W. Evers, I, too, was on many Klan death lists and I, too, traveled armed: a .38 special Smith and Wesson revolver and a 44/40 Winchester carbine.

The knowledge that I had these weapons and was willing to use them kept enemies at bay. Years later, in a changed Mississippi, this was confirmed by a former prominent leader of the White Knights of the KKK when we had an interesting dinner together at Jackson.

In the 1970s, I was Southside director of the large, privately-funded Chicago Commons Association. Our primary focus involved assisting minority people in developing sensible community organizations — vis-a-vis schools, city services, anti-crime.

We were opposed by white racist organizations (e.g., Nazi Party) and various youth gangs of many sorts. My staff and I received countless death threats, there were arson attacks on our offices, and, on one occasion, men with weapons came to my home and told my wife and children that they intended to kill me. (I happened to be at work.)

Again, I was glad I had many firearms and, again, we guarded our home and let this be known. We responded to hate calls on the telephone by telling the callers we were quite prepared for them.

I noticed something else in Chicago — and in other urban areas in which I’ve lived. The police, honorably committed as the vast majority of them were (and are) simply could not and cannot begin to deal with the crime situation. Large numbers of people and certainly the low-income people with whom I’ve worked, are glad indeed when they have personal firearms protection.

If the notoriously anti-gun Clinton administration was involved in banning books, the ACLU (of which I’m also a member) would be properly alarmed. Thank God for the NRA and other reputable civil libertarian gun-rights organizations. Minnesota can be thankful it has Rep. Collin Peterson who defends the Second Amendment. And I will be pleased to vote for Ben Clayburgh for U.S. Senate and Gary Porter for U.S. House.