Connecticut Law Review

Defense of Self and Community: A Response to Professor Johnson

Professor Nicholas Johnson traces the perception and exercise of the right of the people to keep and bear arms in the African American community from the Jim Crow era through the civil-rights movement in the twentieth century up to modern times. This topic has never been covered in such depth and is a significant contribution to African American historiography. Moreover, it contributes to Second Amendment scholarship because it demonstrates through experience why the right to armed defense of self and community is necessary in a free society. Numerous untapped resources are awaiting discovery and analysis that buttress and further substantiate Professor Johnson’s theses. Judicial decisions and legislation from the Jim Crow era illustrate the exercise of Second Amendment right by African Americans and the forces that sought to repress those rights. Defense of self and community with firearms against racist attack—a theme that Robert F. Williams prominently argued in the mid-twentieth century—proved to be consistent with traditional values, African American and otherwise. As illustrated by positions taken by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the Supreme Court’s recent Second Amendment decisions, elements of the leadership of the African American community have taken an ambivalent approach toward the right to keep and bear arms.

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