WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!!
DEACONS FOR DEFENSE AND JUSTICE
On July 10, 1964, a group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the group known as The Deacons for Defense and Justice to protect members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) against Ku Klux Klan violence. Most of the “Deacons” were veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The Jonesboro chapter organized its first affiliate chapter in nearby Bogalusa, Louisiana led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. Eventually they organized a third chapter in Louisiana. The Deacons tense confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was crucial in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the local African American community.
The Deacons were a driving force of Black Power that Stokely Carmichael echoed. Carmichael speaks about the Deacons when he writes, “Here is a group which realized that the ‘law’ and law enforcement agencies would not protect people, so they had to do it themselves…The Deacons and all other blacks who resort to self-defense represent a simple answer to a simple question: what man would not defend his family and home from attack?” The Deacons, according to Carmichael and many others, were the protection that the Civil Rights needed on local levels, as well as, the ones who intervened in places that the state and federal government fell short.
The Deacons were not the first champions of armed-defense during the Civil Rights Movement. Many activists and other proponents of non-violence protected themselves with guns. Fannie Lou Hamer, the eloquently blunt Mississippi militant who outraged Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 Democratic Convention, confessed that she kept several loaded guns under her bed. Others such as Robert F. Williams also practiced self-defense. Williams transformed his local NAACP branch into an armed self-defense unit, for which transgression he was denounced by the NAACP and hounded by the federal government (he found asylum in Cuba).
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was no stranger to the idea of self-defense. According to Annelieke Dirks, “Even Martin Luther King Jr.—the icon of nonviolence—employed armed bodyguards and had guns in his house during the early stages of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956. Glenn Smiley, an organizer of the strictly nonviolent and pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), observed during a house visit that the police did not allow King a weapon permit, but that ‘the place is an arsenal.” Efforts from those such as Smiley convinced Dr. King that any sort of weapons or “self-defense” could not be associated with someone holding King’s position. Dr. King agreed.
The African-American community felt that a response of action was crucial in curbing this terrorism given the lack of support and protection by State and Federal authorities. A group of African-American men in Jonesboro in Jackson Parish in north Louisiana, led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick, founded the group in November 1964 to protect civil rights workers, their communities and their families against the Klan. Most of the Deacons were war veterans with combat experience from the Korean War and World War II. The Jonesboro chapter later organized a Deacons chapter in Bogalusa, Louisiana, led by Charles Sims, A. Z. Young and Robert Hicks. The Jonesboro chapter initiated a regional organizing campaign and eventually formed 21 chapters in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The militant Deacons’ confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was instrumental in forcing the federal government to invervene on behalf of the black community and enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and neutralize the Klan.
Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas was born in Jonesboro, Louisiana, on November 20, 1935, in a time of extreme segregation. He believed that political reforms could be secured by force rather than moral appeal. The CORE had a freedom house in Jonesboro that became the target of the Klan. The practice referred to as “nigger knocking” was a time-honored tradition among whites in the rural South. Because of repeated attacks on the Freedom House, the Black community responded. Earnest Thomas was one of the first volunteers to guard the house. According to Lance Hill, “Thomas was eager to work with CORE, but he had reservations about the nonviolent terms imposed by the young activists.” Thomas, who had military training, quickly emerged as the leader of this budding defense organization that would guard the Jonesboro community in the day with their guns concealed and carried their guns openly during the cover of night to discourage any Klan activity. The history of the Civil Rights Movement focuses little on organizations such as the Deacons for a number of reasons. First, the dominant ideology of the Movement was one of practicing non-violence and this overarching view has been the accepted way to characterize the Civil Rights Movement. Second, threats to the lives of Deacons’ members required that secrecy be maintained to avoid terrorist attacks on their supporters, and they recruited mature and male members, in contrast to other more informal self-defense efforts in which women and teenagers also played a role. Finally, with the shift to Northern Black plight and the idea of Black Power emerging in major cities across America, the Deacons became yesterday’s news and organizations such as The Black Panther Party gained notoriety and became the publicized militant Black organization.
The tactics of the Deacons attracted the attention and concern of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigating the group over the years, the Bureau produced more than 1,500 pages of comprehensive and relatively accurate records on the Deacons, activities, largely through numerous informants close to or even inside the organization. Members of the Deacons were repeatedly questioned and intimidated by F.B.I. agents. One member, Harvie Johnson (the last surviving original member of the Deacons for Defense and Justice), was “interviewed” by two agents who asked only how the Deacons obtained their weapons, with no questions about Klan activity or police brutality ever asked. In February 1965, after a New York Times article about the Deacons, J. Edgar Hoover became interested in the group. Lance Hill offers Hoover’s reaction, which was sent to the field offices of the Bureau in Louisiana: “Because of the potential for violence indicated, you are instructed to immediately initiate an investigation of the DDJ [Deacons for Defense and Justice].” As was eventually exposed in the late 1970s, under its COINTELPRO program, the FBI was involved in many illegal activities to spy on and undermine organizations it deemed “a threat to the American way”. However, with the advent of other militant Black Power organizations, and the Black Power Movement becoming the more visible movement towards the latter 1960s, the involvement of the Deacons in the civil rights movement declined , with the presence of the Deacons all but vanishing by 1968
WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!
PRAISE OUR TRIUMPHS…..LEARN FROM OUR ERRORS!
THE AFRICAN CIVILIZATION SOCIETY 1858-1869
The African Civilization Society (ACS) was founded in 1858 by Henry Highland Garnet who sought to encourage black American to immigrate to Africa. Garnet envisioned educated black Americans moving to the African Continent as cultural missionaries to lead the economic, political, and moral development of the various indigenous peoples. The ACS Constitution outlined its goals for Africa and people of African descent in other areas of the world. The ACS also saw itself as a major force in the destruction of the African slave trade and in promoting African self-governance and self-reliance. Specifically, the ACS sought to make African nations independent cotton producers. They believed that cotton grown in Africa and sold on the world market would break the monopoly of southern United States slave-grown cotton in European and American textile production, and thus hasten the end of slavery.
Headquartered in the Weeksville section of Brooklyn, New York, the ACS worked with black churches and schools. Prominent African Americans involved with the ACS included Reverend Amos N. Freeman, Reverend Rufus L. Perry, Richard H. Cain, and John Sella Martin.
Embracing a 19th Century version of cultural nationalism, the ACS argued that black Americans should lead their own education efforts and establish and control the political and social institutions in their communities. This majority-male organization was one of the first 19th Century groups to recognize the importance of black women in reform and uplift efforts. Challenging the prevailing view that black Americans were dependent by nature and by generations of enslavement, they called on black leaders to elevate their race through the promotion of ideas of self-reliance and self-help. Such efforts, they said, required an educated leadership.
By 1866 the African Civilization Society employed 69 African Americans engaged in teaching over 2,000 students in Sabbath and day schools in the Northeast. Also by that date, the ACS was the only black association sending teachers to the South to educate the freed people.
The African Civilization Society began to decline around 1866 due to financial difficulties. By 1869 the organization ended its activities.
WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!!
CHRIS HANI 1942 – APRIL 10, 1993
South African Political Activist and Freedom Fighter who was considered a threat to both the extreme-right wing in South Africa and the new, moderate leadership of the African National Congress,assassinated in April 1993
Martin Thembisile (Chris) Hani was born on 28 June 1942 in a small rural town, Comfimvaba, Transkei, South Africa.
THIS BRIEF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNT WAS WRITTEN BY CHRIS HANI IN FEBRUARY 1991:
“I was born in a small rural town in the Transkei called Cofimvaba. This town is almost 200 kilometres from East London. I am the fifth child in a family of six. Only three of us are still surviving, the other three died in their infancy. My mother is completely illiterate and my father semi-literate. My father was a migrant worker in the mines in the Transvaal, but he subsequently became an unskilled worker in the building industry.
Life was quite harsh for us and we went through some hard times as our mother had to supplement the family budget through subsistence farming; had to bring us up with very little assistance from my father who was always away working for the white capitalists.
I had to walk twenty kilometres to school every five days and then walk the same distance to church every Sunday. At the age of eight I was already an altar boy in the Catholic church and was quite devout.
After finishing my primary school education I had a burning desire to become a priest but this was vetoed by my father.
In 1954, while I was doing my secondary education, the apartheid regime introduced Bantu Education which was designed to indoctrinate Black pupils to accept and recognise the supremacy of the white man over the blacks in all spheres. This angered and outraged us and paved the way for my involvement in the struggle.
The arraignment for Treason of the ANC leaders in 1956 convinced me to join the ANC and participate in the struggle for freedom. In 1957 I made up my mind and joined the ANC Youth League. I was fifteen then, and since politics was proscribed at African schools our activities were clandestine. In 1959 I went over to university at Fort Hare where I became openly involved in the struggle, as Fort Hare was a liberal campus. It was here that I got exposed to Marxist ideas and the scope and nature of the racist capitalist system. My conversion to Marxism also deepened my non-racial perspective.
My early Catholicism led to my fascination with Latin studies and English literature. These studies in these two course were gobbled up by me and I became an ardent lover of English, Latin and Greek literature, both modern and classical. My studies of literature further strengthened my hatred of all forms of oppression, persecution and obscurantism. The action of tyrants as portrayed in various literary works also made me hate tyranny and institutionalized oppression.
In 1961 I joined the underground South African Communist Party as I realized that national liberation, though essential, would not bring about total economic liberation. My decision to join the Party was influenced by such greats of our struggle like Govan Mbeki, JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Ray Simons, etc.
In 1962, having recognized the intransigence of the racist regime, I joined the fledgling MK. This was the beginning of my long road in the armed struggle in which there have been three abortive assassination attempts against me personally. The armed struggle, which we never regarded as exclusive, as we combined it with other forms of struggle, has brought about the present crisis of apartheid.
In 1967 I fought together with Zipra forces in Zimbabwe as political commissar. In 1974 I went back to South Africa to build the underground and I subsequently left for Lesotho where I operated underground and contributed in the building of the ANC underground inside our country.”
In 1967 he took an active role in the Rhodesian bush war, acting as a Political Commissar in the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). ZIPRA, under the command of Joshua Nkomo, operated out of Zambia. Hani was present for three battles during the ‘Wankie Campaign’ (fought in the Wankie Game Reserve against Rhodesian forces) as part of the Luthuli Detachment of combined ANC and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) forces.
Although the campaign provided much-needed propaganda for the struggle in Rhodesia and South Africa, in military terms it was a failure. Far too often the local population informed on guerrilla groups to the police. In early 1967 Hani narrowly escaped into Botswana, only to be arrested and detained in prison for two years for weapons possession. Hani returned to Zambia at the end of 1968 to continue his work with ZIPRA.
In 1973 Hani transferred to Lesotho. Here he organised units of the MK for guerrilla operations in South Africa. By 1982, Hani had become prominent enough in the ANC to be the focus of several assassination attempts, including at least one car bomb. He was transferred from the Lesotho capital, Maseru, to the centre of the ANC political leadership in Lusaka, Zambia. That year he was elected to the membership of the ANC National Executive Committee, and by 1983 he had been promoted to Political Commissar of the MK, working with student recruits who joined the ANC in exile after the 1976 student uprising.
When dissident ANC members, who were being held in detention camps in Angola, mutinied against their harsh treatment in 1983–4, Hani played a key role in the uprisings’ suppression – although he denied any involvement in the subsequent torture and murders. Hani continued to rise through the ANC ranks and in 1987 he became the Chief of Staff of the MK. During the same period he rose to senior membership of the SACP.
After the unbanning of ANC and SACP on 2 February 1990 Hani returned to South Africa and became a charismatic and popular speaker in townships. In 1992 Hani stepped down as Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe to devote more time to the organisation of the SACP. Communists were prominent in the ANC and the Council of South African Trade Unions, but were under threat – the collapse of Marxism in Europe had discredited the movement world wide, and the policy of infiltrating other anti-Apartheid groups rather than making an independent stand was being questioned.
Hani campaigned for the SACP in townships around South Africa, seeking to redefine its place as a national political party. It was soon doing well – better than the ANC in fact – especially amongst the young who had no real experiences of the pre-Apartheid era and no commitment to the democratic ideals of the more moderate Mandela at all.
Hani was described as charming, passionate and charismatic, and soon attracted a cult-like following. He was the only political leader who seemed to have influence over the radical township self-defence groups that had parted from the authority of the ANC. Hani’s SACP would have proved a serious match for the ANC in the 1994 elections.
On 10 April 1993, as he returned home to Dawn Park, Boksberg (Johannesburg), Hani was assassinated by Januzs Walus, an anti-Communist Polish refugee who had close links to the white nationalist AWB. Also implicated in the assassination was Conservative Party MP Clive Derby-Lewis. Hani’s death came at a critical time for South Africa. The SACP was on the brink of becoming a significant status as an independent political party – it now found itself bereft of funds (due to collapse in Europe) and without a strong leader – and the democratic process was faltering. The assassination helped persuade the bickering negotiators of the Multi-Party Negotiating Forum to finally set a date for South Africa’s first democratic election.
Walus and Derby-Lewis were captured, sentenced and jailed within an incredibly short period (only six months) of the assassination. Both were sentenced to death. In a peculiar twist, the new government (and constitution) they had actively fought against, caused in their sentences being commuted to life imprisonment – the death penalty having been ruled ‘unconstitutional’. In 1997 Walus and Derby-Lewis applied for amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings. Despite claims that they were working for the Conservative Party, and therefore the assassination had been a political act, the TRC effectively ruled that Hani had been assassinated by right-wing extremists who were apparently acting independently. Walus and Derby-Lewis are currently serving their sentence in a maximum security prison near Pretoria.
Time for an Awakening Media, part of the Black Talk Radio Network snags #1 Black Audio Podcasting Ranking. Please make a donation to keep Time for an Awakening and it's programs on air & online & in the community.
Black Podcast newsletter is a comprehensive summary of the day's most important audio podcasts episodes from the best podcasters on the web and delivered to your email inbox each morning.
Be sure to check out our other Podcasts!!!!