We Will Shoot Back
Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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My father was born in 1915 to a sharecropping family in the Bolivar County village of Alligator in the Mississippi Delta. Dad told me stories about Mississippi when I was growing up in Compton, California. These stories were full of examples of White terrorism and intimidation. One story I heard...
1. Terror and Resistance: Foundations of the Civil Rights Insurgency
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In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Mississippi, a territory of the United States (acquired in the Louisiana Purchase), consisted of only a few thousand White settlers and captive Africans, as well as the indigenous population. In 1817, Mississippi was granted the status of a state in the U.S...
2. “I’m Here, Not Backing Up”: Emergence of Grassroots Militancy and Armed Self-Defense in the 1950s
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Something new was happening in Mississippi. Although White terror was still formidable, Black people were willing to rally in the thousands for their freedom and human rights. Accommodationist Black leadership still had significant control over Black institutions, but they were being challenged by new...
3. “Can’t Give Up My Stuff”: Nonviolent Organizations and Armed Resistance
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The NAACP never overtly promoted armed resistance. The organization’s national leadership also never advocated nonviolent direct action as a primary method of struggle. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which began organizing in Mississippi in 1961, became the...
4. “Local People Carry the Day”: Freedom Summer and Challenges to Nonviolence in Mississippi
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By 1964, CORE and SNCC organizers in Mississippi were confronted with the dilemma of continuing their voter registration efforts in the face of increasing violence from White supremacists against the activists and communities they organized. SNCC’s and CORE’s initial years in Mississippi...
5. “Ready to Die and Defend”: Natchez and the Advocacy and Emergence of Armed Resistance in Mississippi
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The years following the Freedom Summer of 1964 represent a significant shift in the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. The COFO coalition was unable to maintain its momentum in terms of providing statewide direction and coordination for the Mississippi Movement...
6. “We Didn’t Turn No Jaws”: Black Power, Boycotts, and the Growing Debate on Armed Resistance
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On June 6, 1966, Movement activist James Meredith was shot one day after he initiated his “March against Fear.” His one-man march was a challenge to the intimidation from White supremacist terror that Blacks had had to endure for centuries. The Mississippi-born activist stated that the march’s...
7. “Black Revolution Has Come”: Armed Insurgency, Black Power, and Revolutionary Nationalism in the Mississippi Freedom Struggle
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One NAACP lawyer told author Willie Morris, “Rudy Shields is one of the few Black radicals left who still believe in integration.” While Shields led Mississippi Black communities in local campaigns to pursue civil rights and desegregation, his rhetoric and perspective began to reflect the insurgent...
8. “No Longer Afraid”: The United League, Activist Litigation, Armed Self-Defense, and Insurgent Resilience in Northern Mississippi
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The 1970s saw a resurgence of Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist activity in the South and throughout the United States. The Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith identified the late 1970s as a “minor renaissance” for the Klan, which “almost tripled its national membership” in...
Conclusion: Looking Back So We Can Move Forward
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I grew up in Compton, Watts, and South Central Los Angeles, California. I embraced the Black Power Movement as a teenager. Malcolm X, George Jackson, Robert Williams, Max Stanford, and the Black Panthers were my heroes. I was recruited into the African Peoples Party and the House of Umoja, two successor organizations of the Revolutionary Action Movement...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013