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.

 

The Hard Life and Troubling Times of Henry “Black Death” Johnson

Henry "Black Death" Johnson. At 5'4, 130 pounds, this inexperienced Private was the worst nightmare for the Germans on the French front.
Henry “Black Death” Johnson. At 5’4, 130 pounds, this inexperienced Private was the worst nightmare for the Germans on the French front.

This isn’t a story about guns. It’s about what happens after you’re gun stops working, but before the enemy stops coming. It’s the story of Henry “Black Death” Johnson, a little brother from the South who joined the National Guard in Albany NY, and ended up a hero in France.
May 4,1918. Argonne France. Two Black privates in the 369th Regiment of the United States Army were on alone on sentry duty. Dressed in the uniforms of the French Fourth Army, they were considered to be throw aways by General John Pershing, fit to dig latrines or unload ships, but little else.

Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919. Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Storms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor Photo: Wikipedia
Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919. Left to right. Front row: Pvt. Ed Williams, Herbert Taylor, Pvt. Leon Fraitor, Pvt. Ralph Hawkins. Back Row: Sgt. H. D. Prinas, Sgt. Dan Storms, Pvt. Joe Williams, Pvt. Alfred Hanley, and Cpl. T. W. Taylor
Photo: Wikipedia

The fact that they were serving in French uniform was only the latest in a long line of insults that the soldiers had faced. Since the Civil War, Blacks had to fight for the right to defend their nation. A 1936, a manpower assessment produced at the Army War College described black soldiers as shiftless, dishonest and lazy.”
“Say what you will,” the report declared, “the American Negro is still a primitive human being.” (Anchorage Daily News)
We were considered to be cowards, incapable of appreciating civic duty or national pride. Even though we had displayed considerable valor during the Civil War, the country wasn’t ready to recognize our humanity.

They were comparatively raw troops and were yet subjected to the most awful ordeal…They charged upon fortifications through the crash of belching batteries. The man, White or Black, who will not flinch from that will flinch from nothing… It is no longer possible to doubt the bravery and steadiness of the colored race. It is useless to talk anymore about Negro courage. The men fought like tigers.”

Reporter’s account, as documented in Negros and the Gun by Nicholas Johnson

That night, outfitted in French military uniform, Henry “Black Death” Johnson, of either Alexandria Virginia or Winston-Salem NC, and Needham Roberts of New Jersey, began to draw German sniper fire. Johnson responded by hurling grenades at the advancing German troops. Although Roberts was injured by a German grenade blast, he continued to pass more of the grenades to Johnson.
When they ran out of grenades, Johnson armed himself with his rifle. That too failed him, as he inadvertently loaded a French round into his American rifle in the confusion of battle. By then, the two men were surrounded.
As their position was overrun, Johnson, who stood just 5’4 and weighed 130 pounds, attacked the men with his rifle, swinging it like a club and taking out anyone unlucky or dumb enough to get too close. And when the stock of the rifle splintered on a hapless German, he grabbed his bolo knife.
“Each slash meant something, believe me,” Johnson said later. “I wasn’t doing exercises, let me tell you.”
He stabbed one German soldier in the stomach, felled a lieutenant, and then buried his knife between the ribs of a soldier who had climbed on his back, taking a pistol shop in the arm in the process.
Johnson killed four Germans that night, and wounded anywhere from 10 to 20 more. More importantly, he had saved his friend’s life and held the French line.
“There wasn’t anything so fine about it,” he said later. “Just fought for my life. A rabbit would have done that.”
The French awarded both Johnson and Roberts the Croix de Guerre, which was France’s highest military honor at the time. In all, 500 members of the Harlem Hellfighters earned the Croix de Guerre during World War I.

When the 3000 Hellfighters returned to Harlem with Black Death leading the way,  the Borough went into hysterics.
When the 3000 Hellfighters returned to Harlem with Black Death leading the way, the Borough went into hysterics.

When Johnson and his fellow Hellfighters returned to the United States in 1919, they were celebrated with a parade down Fifth Avenue. Thousands came out to cheer them; particularly the small man in the drop top Cadillac which led the procession. Johnson, who had been promoted to Sargent by then, waved a bouquet of red lilacs as the crowd hollered out, “Oh you Black Death.” (The Hellfighters marched in their own parade. The laws wouldn’t permit them to share the same celebration as the returning White troops.)
If you’re looking for a happy ending, stop reading now. Go back to Facebook with the knowledge that “Black Death” Johnson threw Harlem into hysterics.
Afterwards, the Army used his image to sell Victory War Stamps. He was used in recruiting literature and even former President Theodore Roosevelt recognized him as one of the five bravest men to fight in WWI.
Johnson went back to his job as a redcap porter in Albany, New York. The war, however, had taken his toll. He had lost his shinbone and most of the bones of his foot. He simply couldn’t keep a job.
Some sources said that the Army discharge didn’t grant him a disability pension. Others say that he received a disability pension up to his death of tuberculosis in 1929 at the age of 32. At any rate, his life was difficult. By the time of his death, he had separated from his family and descended into alcoholism.
“Black Death” Johnson finally received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2015, only 97 years after that night in Argonne France.

 

Legendary Lawman Bass Reeves coming to HBO.

Bass Reeves was credited with bringing  about 3000 men to justice. Now he is going to be the subject of an HBO movie.
Bass Reeves was credited with bringing about 3000 men to justice. Now he is going to be the subject of an HBO movie.

Bass Reeves, the guy some people called the real Django Unchained and others  said that inspired the Lone Ranger, is finally going to have his story told. Twice. And he’s about to make both Django and the Lone Rangers look like rank amateurs.

Reeves is one of those bigger than life stories that continues to percolate beneath the surface of the African experience. He escaped from his master during the civil war and then went west, straight into Indian territory, where he became a crack shot.

  • He learned to speak several tribal languages and gained an intimate knowledge of the territory.
  • He became an Deputy U.S. Marshall at a time when wearing a badge was not too different from pinning a target to your chest (especially as a Black man)
  • He used marksmanship, disguise and a Native American guide to bring 3000 outlaws to justice. 2,986 came in alive.
  • He served (and survived) as a Deputy US Marshall for 32 years, and although the brim of his hat, one button, and his horse’s bridle were destroyed by gunfire. If that isn’t close enough for you, his belt was shot in two.
  • Although Cowboy movies tend to depict their heroes with a gun on each hip, one tends to be kind of worthless. Try shooting with your non-dominate hand and you’ll see why. Reeves was ambidextrous, and just as deadly with his left hand as his right. He was so effective with a rifle that he was banned from participating in local turkey shoots.

Was he the real Django Unchained? Seeing as how the two existed in entirely different time periods and had almost nothing in common, probably not. Did he inspire the Lone Ranger? It’s possible – it is said that Reeves left silver coins as his calling card, which perhaps inspired the Ranger’s silver bullets.

bassreeves (1)But then again, just because Bass Reeves lived a life that encompassed every trait of bad-ass-dom that there ever was, doesn’t mean that every bad-ass fictitious character was based on him.

Doesn’t matter. If you’re one of those people who can only look up to a person once they have appeared on a screen, you have your new hero. He will soon be profiled on Legends and Lies, a Fox News series produced by Bill ORielly.

More importantly, Morgan Freeman, is producing an HBO mini-series about him. Written by John Sayles (Lone Star), and based on Art T. Burton’s biography Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life And Legend Of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, the series is a labor of love for Freeman that is more than 20 years in the making.

It will be a dream come true for Freeman, who calls himself a Western fanatic, but has thirsted for more Black characters since his childhood.

He said this of Bass Reeves project. “This is a black man in America’s legendary Western history who has been totally overlooked. Any chance I get to revisit historical moments of our country is important to me.”

The Bass Reeves miniseries joins another high-profile project in the works about our heroes at HBO. They are also doing a movie about Harriet Tubman, which will star Viola Davis.

The Heroism of the Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riots: Our Alamo

Aftermath of the Tulsa Oklahoma race riots. 6000 African residents were "detained" and "interned" by white residents. 35 Square blocks were destroyed. As many as 300 were killed, and the economic center of Africans in America was burned to the ground.
Aftermath of the Tulsa Oklahoma race riots. 6000 African residents were “detained” and “interned” by white residents. 35 Square blocks were destroyed. As many as 300 were killed, and the economic center of Africans in America was burned to the ground.

 

Tulsa wasn’t just a tragedy. It was our 300. Our Alamo. And when we talk about it, that is how we have to phrase it. It is the finest example of Black men and women standing up and fighting to defend themselves and their families.

This is what we know about Tulsa.

tulsa29
Men being rounded up and moved to the detention center.

It erupted May 31, 1921 with an encounter between a Black man and a White woman in a downtown elevator. He would say that he tripped and innocently caught himself by grabbing her arm. She claimed that he had tried to grab her. While rumors spread that an attempted rape had just taken place, many whispered quietly that they were actually lovers embroiled in an argument. It doesn’t matter anymore.

Threats of lynchings were met with action. Thirty Black men, many of whom were well trained and well armed veterans of WWI, went to protect the young “assailant”, who was now in custody at the local courthouse. Soon, a counter force of 1,000 White men arrived at the courthouse while another contingent went to the National Guard Armory for more firearms. They were repelled by the hastily mobilized Guardsmen. They then descended on the courthouse, their numbers now nearing 2,000.

When a second armed contingent of 75 Black men went to the courthouse as reinforcements, the situation exploded. One of the White men demanded that a Black man surrender his pistol. When he refused, the White man shot him down. That was the first shot of a gunfight that would consume the city.

  • The First Wave: Those shots cascaded through the mob. The White men opened fire, and were met with return fire by the Black men who had gone to protect the courthouse. Several men on both sides lay dead or dying in the street.
  • As the Black contingent began to fight their way back to Greenwood they were pursued by the mob. Bystanders leaving local businesses were panicked as the mob shot them down indiscriminately.
  • Late that night, National Guard units were deployed to quell the riots. They stationed themselves to protect the White areas adjacent to Greenwood. They also began picking up Black people who hadn’t returned to Greenwood, and detaining them at a local convention hall.
  • Early the next morning groups of armed Whites and Blacks battled along Frisco tracks, the dividing line between the Black and White commercial districts. Whites made wild forays into Greenwood, taking shots when they could and setting fires along the way. They were met with return fire. When a rumor got around that Black reinforcements would be arriving by train, the White mob littered it with gunfire as it pulled into the station.
  • The mob set fires along the commercial corridor of Archer Street. When the firemen came, they were repelled at gunpoint. Within hours, dozens of Black businesses were burning to the ground.
  • Daybreak. The mob made an all out assault on Greenwood. While the residents fought back, they were simply outnumbered. They were herded into the street where they were either rounded up or marched at gunpoint to the detention center. Their houses were looted, and the mob shot them down indiscriminately.
  • It should be noted that there were numerous reports of WWI biplanes flying overhead, leading to the claim that Tulsa marked the first time the government dropped bombs on its own soil. Residents of Greenwood said that they witnessed men dropping firebombs onto their homes and businesses, and taking shots with rifles. Local law enforcement countered that the planes were conducting reconnaissance over the “negro uprising”.
  • Whites were attacked too. Those who employed Blacks found themselves confronted by the White mob, who demanded that they turn their employees over to the detention centers. Those that didn’t were attacked and their property was vandalized.
Child holding wounded sibling in the aftermath of the Tulsa Race Riots, our Alamo
Child holding wounded sibling in the aftermath of the Tulsa Race Riots, our Alamo

Troops from the Oklahoma National Guard arrived later that morning, and had suppressed the violence by noon. By then the damage had been done. It’s hard to say how many Black people lost their lives. Estimations run from about 30 to 300, but there was no way to account for those whose bodies were consumed by the fires that destroyed Greenwood.

Greenwood was made rich, in part, as an unintended consequence of segregation. The money made there stayed there, circulating 19 times according to some estimations. It was a bastion of Black lawyers, doctors and business men who were able to find freedom that was unavailable in the South.  All of that ended in the span of less than 24 hours.

We talk about the tragedy. What we don’t talk about is the heroism. The 125 brave men who went to the Courthouse to ensure that a young man wasn’t lynched that night. The men who confronted the armed mob at every step, and defended their lives and their homes. Tulsa wasn’t just a tragedy. It was our 300. Our Alamo. And when we talk about it, that is how we have to phrase it. It is the finest example of Black men and women standing up and fighting to defend themselves and their families.

The self-confidence of Tulsa’s Negroes soared, their businesses prospered, their institutions flourished and they simply had no fear of whites… Such an attitude had a great deal to do with eradicating the fear that a Negro boy growing up in Tulsa might have felt, in the years following the riots.

John Hope Franklin, Historian and witness to the Tulsa Race Riots.

 

 

The NAAGA: National African American Gun Association

Crazy like a fox.
Crazy like a fox.

I don’t know if my problem is with the NRA or its leadership.

They are the undisputed big dogs when it comes to insuring that we continue to have the right to keep and bear arms, and they are vicious. They are so rabid about our rights to keep and bear arms that they have begun t0 push for rights that I am not entirely sure are necessary.

But the leadership… Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and newly elected President Jim Porter come off as paranoid people and they say crazy things. Witness this post with Think Progress entitled the Nine Most Insane Quotes from the NRA’s New Apocalyptic Op-ed. Reading it gave me the impression that we are about three weeks away from a living like Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead.

RickGrimesSeason2
The NRA wants us to go through life at Defcon 9.5, hyper vigilant about the coming and inevitable collapse. Self defense is good. Paranoia isn’t.

Not to mention race. LaPierre painted a picture where there were threats around every corner ready to kidnap, rape or loot. And most of them, be they the looters of South Brooklyn, Mexican drug gangs, Al Queda or the President, were people of color. No mention of white power groups or pumpkin rioters. Go figure.

Notice, I didn’t say that they were crazy. You don’t maintain one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country by being crazy. The NRA pushes self reliance and security. Not easy, when  according to the FBI, crime is at an all time low?

What some people call nutty is probably shrewd, calculated organizing. Some lobbies boast a sensible membership. The NRA cultivates passion. Few people are driven to write letters to their congressmen in fits of sensibility. Passion = power, and the NRA is powerful.

Their formula works perfectly. I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with it.

Sam shot me a link to the National African American Gun Association. Below is their mission statement.

THE GOAL OF THE NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN GUN ASSOCIATION IS TO HAVE EVERY AFRICAN AMERICAN INTRODUCED TO FIREARM USE FOR HOME PROTECTION,  COMPETITIVE SHOOTING, AND OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES. WE ARE A CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON SELF PRESERVATION OF OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH ARMED PROTECTION AND COMMUNITY BUILDING.

Makes sense to me.

This weekend I will be going to a meet and greet at a local gun range. I’ll keep you posted.

Maryland 10th Calvary Gun Club. Photo from NPR
The NAAGA is a new shooting organization for African American shooters. Pictured are the Maryland 10th Calvary Gun Club. Photo from NPR

Letter from the Editor

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

 

Daddys-gun.com is one month old. It’s been a rough 28 days.

I began February with the pledge of highlighting one African hero in the US every day. It didn’t go well.

It’s not that I ran out of heroes. No, I have a wealth of men and women to pull from, that took up arms to fight the injustices of Jim Crow, slavery and any other threat that you could throw at them. I did, however, run out of space and time to do them justice. I thought I could tell you about the real Mr. Man in the space of an Instagram post. I was wrong. That’s not how you treat your ancestors. They deserve better and so do you.

Besides, everybody posts about our heroes during Black History month. In fact, the only posts more common than the ones proclaiming our nobility, are the ones pointing out that our history is so much greater than just one month.

One of the missions of the Daddys-Gun is to point out that there is a strong tradition of African warriorship in the United States. That needs to be said. Too many people think that we just took it, cowering stupidly through slavery and shuffling gingerly through Jim Crow. It’s just not true.

There have been countless revolts by the African captives in America. So many that the laws and customs of the land changed as a result, imposing the more restrictions on Africans here than almost anyplace else in the diaspora. I know I don’t come from cowards. I still intend to prove it.

Once a week I will talk about our heroes. That will give me enough time to plan and research, so that you’re not getting someone else’s words cut-and-pasted onto a post. I might even do it on video.

I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, covering the firearms world from the perspective of a novice. It’s not that there is a lack of material. I just want to make sure I do it justice. I know how much ire is caused when someone makes a mistake as innocent as referring to a magazine as a clip. I didn’t want to step on that landmine.

But I will. As careful as I’ve been, I still wrote a story singing the praises of an 82 year old woman that turned out to be an absolute fabrication. I’m over it. I’m diving in this month. Mistakes will be made. Get ready to correct me.

This month I intend to post once a day. If you have a problem with something that I write, we can take it up in the comments section.

Also this month..

  • I’ll be going to the range with Samuel Hayes of Caliber Training Group. Finally, I’ll be able to get into the nitty gritty of shooting
  • I’ll be interviewing Akinyele Omowale Umoja, the author of We Will Shoot Back,  a chronicle of the Mississippians who risked everything by arming themselves against “White supremacist terrorism”
  • I’ll be writing about The Real Mr. Man Remember the character Ving Rhames played in Rosewood? Yeah, that Mr. Man.)
  • I’ll be writing about the guns that Harriet Tubman carried with her as she freed captive Africans and helped fight the Confederacy
  • I’ll be sharing practical tips from some of the legends in the field of shooting
  • I’ll be talking about my own journey, beginning with the paperwork for the Ga concealed carry license
  • And I’ll be reaching out to you, my readers, to get your insight on responsible carry

Last, but not least, I want to know what you think. It’s what is going to make this blog great. But I need to get to know you.

Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter  and Instagram @Chadvs5.

Thanks,

Chad