Prof. Nicholas Johnson // The what and why of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms

The what and why of <i>Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms</i> – The Washington Post – Much of my scholarship over the last two decades has focused on gun issues. Some find this an odd specialty for someone like me. Negroes and the Gun is a sort of answer to people who wonder and often have asked, how is it that a black law professor at a New York City law school comes to write sympathetically about the Second Amendment and gun rights. But Negroes and the Gun also demands its own preliminary explanation.

No one really uses the word Negro anymore. I haven’t said it out loud in decades. So the title of this book is odd in that sense. But in other more important ways the title is entirely apt. Some will recognize the title as a variation on Robert Williams’ memoir, Negroes with Guns (readers will become acquainted with Williams in the first chapter and again in Chapter Seven as he provokes a conflict with the NAACP that captures the central theme of the black tradition of arms). Negroes is also evocative of the deep roots of the black tradition of arms which emerged at a time in the American story when most black people had the legal status of mules and would have been gratified to be called Negroes.

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