We Have Shot Back! William Parker and the Christiana Uprising. #WeWillShootBack

Every once in a while, some obvious shit makes the headlines.

Earlier this week the hashtag, #WeWillShootBack was sprung on twitter, where it caught fire. It was inspired by Dylan Roof and nine innocent dead victims of old-fashioned terrorism. If you haven’t heard the story by now, I envy you.
White man comes into a Church. White man prays with the congregation. White man has a moment of hesitation, because of the love that he felt from said congregation. Then he lines them up and slaughters them.

There are those who said that this wasn’t an attack on Blackness. Rather, it was a strike against the Christian faith. Well, not only is Dylann Roof a devout Christian, but he was also kind enough to write a racist manifesto. He even wore patches from white supremacist groups associated with South African Apartheid. He is a connoisseur of hatred, and he wanted to create a race war.

Since then, seven churches have burned, most of which were blamed on arson. Then there was the copycat in Richmond Virginia. He knocked on the windows of a Black Church, promising to kill them. Check the video.

Nine dead, promises to kill more, and seven churches burned. #WeWillShootBack should be the least controversial hashtag, right up there with #ILikeLiving.

But just so you know that you are in good company, here are a handful of instances when Black people actually did shoot back.

Contemporary depiction of the Christiana Uprising.
Contemporary depiction of the Christiana Uprising.

Remember the Christiana Uprising:

Christiana Pa. 1851. An escaped slave named William Parker risked his life in a gun battle to protect people who had escaped slavery from their former captors.

Parker had settled in Pennsylvania close to its border with Maryland. He was an old friend of Frederick Douglas (knew him from the days when they were both slaves in Maryland) and now he was a front-line soldier in the Underground Railroad.

He was harboring men and women who had escaped from slavery when their former captor Edward Gorsuch ¬†rolled onto his property with a gaggle of relatives and government marshals in search of his “property”.

Parker was a hardened fighter. He had already confronted other kidnappers, shot at and been shot in order to protect the free. This time he knew that they were coming. When Gorsuch arrived, papers of ownership in hand, he was met by an army of between 50 and 100 men.

Gorsuch said, “I will have my slaves, or perish!” And not surprisingly, he didn’t live through the day. Parker and his men shot the slave catchers down.

After a battle that filled the small farm with thick gun smoke, Gorsuch lay dead, a couple of his men were badly wounded and Parker had fled to Canada with a couple of his compatriots and the men and women who had escaped slavery on Gorsuch’s plantation, and federal marshals hot on their trail.

On their last morning in the United States, moments after they had snuck to the ferry that would take them to the freedom of Canada, Parker gave Frederick Douglas the revolver that Gorsuch was holding when he died.

We reached the boat without remark or molestation. I remained on board till the order to haul the gangplank was given.

I shook hands with my friends and received from Parker the revolver that fell from the hand of Gorsuch when he died, presented now as a token of gratitude and memento from the battle for liberty at Christiana.

Frederick Douglas

I wonder what Douglas would say about the hand wringing and nervous talk, whenever there is discussion of us defending our own, comes up.

Parker didn’t try to appeal to the slave master’s humanity. When the slave owner knocked at his door, holding a piece of paper that he believed to be worth several lives, there was no hastily convened prayer circle.¬†They grabbed their guns and returned fire.