I’m Black, Liberal and Pro Guns. Here’s Why

Yes, this petition is real. No, you can't click it.
Yes, this petition is real. No, you can’t click it.

There is a petition going around to repeal the Second Amendment of the Constitution. Don’t try clicking it. It won’t take you anywhere.

Even if you don’t know anything at all about the Constitution – there is some pretty good stuff in there –  you know about the Second Amendment. That’s the gun one. The one where the proto-Americans dropped that line about a “…well regulated Militia.” and then said, “Fuck it. They’ll figure it out.”

For some folk, those lines are the most American syllables ever uttered. Others look the same way a lot of Christians look at the lines in the Bible that advocate slavery and good old fashioned stoning.

Is it reasonable to raise arms once you realize your country has become a tyrannical state? One pithy Facebook guy suggested that the the Red Coats are long gone. Problem solved. Militia now moot.

But long before the Red Coats were driven from our shores, Africans and Native Americans in the United States lived in a tyrannical state. And that threat remained after the Constitution was ratified and the Red Coats climbed on their boats and got the fuck out of Dodge.

Below are four of examples of African Americans who raised arms to fight against tyranny. You should know, I’m just scratching the surface. If you click on the photos, they will take you to more detailed stories. Not, it wasn’t always State sponsored. Sometimes, it was just State approved.

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

The Christiana Rebellion: This one took place not far from where I grew up. Christiana Pennsylvania is where the rich, proper talking folk who work in offices in Philadelphia, go after the sun goes down. In 1851, however, it was a community where folks who had escaped from slavery went to find peace. And William Parker, ex slave and current farmer/ Underground Railroad conductor, wasn’t afraid to fire shots, to make sure that the free stayed free.

When slave owner Edward Gorsuch came to Parker’s farm, looking for his former captives, he shouted, “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.

tulsa29The Greenwood Section of Tula Oklahoma, AKA Black Wall Street: You probably already know this one. A tyrannical mob attacked the wealthy, Greenwood section of the city, burning it down within the course of about 24 hours. People know the tragedy. The bombs dropped, the lives lost. But in that telling, people gloss over one thing. Remember, it erupted after about 100 Black men went to the courthouse to make sure that another young Black man didn’t swing from a rope. Tulsa wasn’t just a tragedy. It was our 300. Our Alamo.

Remember Mr. Man from Rosewood? He was real.
Remember Mr. Man from Rosewood? He was real.

Rosewood Florida: The tragedy of Rosewood was much like Tulsa and countless other towns. It began with allegations of rape and ended with the destruction of an entire town. During these situations, law enforcement either stood aside or joined in.

People fought back as they retreated into the swamps, but one story stood out. Samuel Carrier aka Mr. Man. His tale was alluded to in the movie Rosewood, but his real life was more epic. And more tragic.

New Orleans, post Hurricane Katrina: This last one are for those people who feel compelled to shout, “That was soooooo long ago.” There are no heroes here. Sorry. But if you think that something like Rosewood or Tulsa couldn’t happen again, you’re kind of wrong.

Photo of survivor
Photo of survivor

Hidden amidst the survival stories of Hurricane Katrina, there were stories of roving mobs of men and women who shot Black men and women indiscriminately. They went by names like the Militia of Algiers, and as far fetched as they sound, there are video of them bragging about it. Add to that stories of police killings, and it is clear that the rising water wasn’t the only threat.

The British are gone. That doesn’t mean that there is no longer a threat. The top three stories clearly illustrate that the Red Coats weren’t the only Tyrants in America. Depending on the color of your skin or other things such as union or political affiliation, the threat remained well into the 50’s and 60’s. As the stories that emerged from New Orleans demonstrate, in some, very rare circumstances, it’s still here.

 

His Name was Sylvester Carrier. They Called him Mr. Man

Every tragedy has its heroes. Rosewood had Mr. Man.

Rosewood Florida, 1923.

It began when a white woman named Fanny Taylor said she was assaulted and a lynch mob pinned the assault on a Black chain gang escapee named Jesse Hunter.

Their bloodhounds led them to Aaron Carrier. He wasn’t a suspect in the assault, but they thought he helped Jesse get away. They dragged him behind  Model T until they got what they wanted from him.

Aaron Carrier confessed and named Sam Carter as his accomplice.

Only drunken conjecture connected Jesse Hunter to the assault. The only link between Jesse Hunter to Aaron Carrier are the noses of some bloodhounds. And the only thing that connected Aaron Carrier to Sam Carter was a confession obtained through torture.

They swept through Rosewood, warning all of the Black folk to get out of sight. And when they got to Sam Carter’s house, they kicked in the door, slipped a noose around his neck and pulled him outside to the nearest oak tree. They used mutilation and strangulation to get him to confess to driving Jesse to the edge of the swamp.

They made him show them where. And when the dogs didn’t pick up a scent, they killed him on the spot. Then they hoisted his body into the tree and they riddled his body with bullets.

By then, rumors were spreading that the Black men of Rosewood would retaliate for what had been done to Aaron Carrier and Sam Carter. Those rumors focused on Aaron’s cousin, a tall, dark skinned man named Sylvester Carrier. In Rosewood they called him Mr. Man.

Remember Mr. Man from Rosewood? He was real.
Remember Mr. Man from Rosewood? He was real.

Mr. Man was known as a tough man who was quick and accurate with his rifle. He lived off of what he could harvest from the swamps, and the occasional stolen head of cattle. The lynch mob had heard that the men of Rosewood were gathering at Sarah Carrier’s house to retaliate. Sarah Carrier was Mr. Man’s mother.

About a dozen men gathered outside of her house that night, some of whom Sara had nursed when they were children. She walked confidently onto her porch and shouted, “Y’all go on home. Get yourselves on home!” Someone in the crowd shot her. If they knew who it was, they wouldn’t admit it. After that, war broke out.

The first man to step on her porch was shot dead by Mr. Man. Another man fell almost as quickly as the first to Mr. Man’s Winchester. As the frightened mob retreated Mr. Man opened fire through the front and side windows.

He wounded a man who had tried to climb in a second floor window. And as they launched their final, lethal assault, Mr. Man wounded two more.

Soon the mob swelled to hundreds as men flocked from as far as Gainesville and Jacksonville. By the end, the entire town would burn to the ground, and those residents that survived would do so by escaping into the swamps where a sympathetic train conductor gathered them and give them safe passage.

Countless Black towns came to similar ends. Tulsa Ok and Slocum Tx ended in mass bloodshed. We forget that both Wall Street and Brooklyn  New York sit on land that was once the Black enclaves of Five Points and Weeksville until the draft riots either killed them off or drove them out.

But every tragedy has its heroes. It’s about time we started remembering their names.

“Rosewood should make negroes everywhere feel proud and take renewed hope. For our people have fought back again! They have met the mob with its own deadly weapons, they’ve acquitted themselves like freemen and were not content to be burned like bales of hay.”

The Pittsburgh American

For more information please read Negroes and the Gun: the Black Tradition of Arms by Nicholas Johnson.

 

This is what became of Rosewood. Even though it was widely documented at the time, it was quickly forgotten.
This is what became of Rosewood. Even though it was widely documented at the time, it was quickly forgotten.