In July 1964, a group of men from Jonesboro, La., led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the Deacons for Defense and Justice. The group was organized to protect members of the Congress of Racial Equality from Ku Klux Klan violence.
Robert Hicks, along with Charles Sims and A.Z. Young, started the first affiliate chapter in Bogalusa. The group’s intense confrontations with the Klan in Bogalusa was pivotal in forcing the federal government’s involvement on the behalf of the local African-American community.
The Deacons emerged as one of the first visible self-defense forces in the South and represented a new, more assertive face of the civil rights movement. The group was successful in providing protection for local African Americans who wanted to register to vote and for white and black civil rights workers in the area.
According to Tulane University professor Lance Hill’s book titled “The Deacons of Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement,” the group grew to several hundred members and 21 chapters in the Deep South.
Strangely, they mention defense and even the word ‘armed’ appears, but no specifics.
After a few tense moments the police arrived and attempted to defuse the volatile situation . They asked the Deacons to leave first, but the black men refused . Bums recalls the Deacons’ terse response to the police request . “We been leaving first all of our lives,” said Bums. “This time we not going in peace.” Infuriated by the Deacons’ defiance, Paul Farmer suddenly pulled his pistol . In a reflex response, one of the Deacons drew his revolver and in an instant there were half a dozen pistols waving menacingly in the air. Surveying the weapons arrayed against them, the band of Klansmen grudgingly pocketed their weapons and departed .
The Deacons for Defense and Justice had faced death and never flinched. “From that day forward,” says Bums, “we didn’t have too many more problems.”
The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement.
Fixed that for you, Jordan.