The Spirit and the Shotgun
Armed Resistance and the Struggle for Civil Rights
"A really fine contribution to African American history and to the history of the black struggle for equality. What makes The Spirit and the Shotgun unique is the scope of this work. . . . A book all scholars of the movement will want and need to read."--Harvard I. Sitkoff, University of New Hampshire
The Spirit and the Shotgun explores the role of armed self-defense in tandem with nonviolent protests in the African American freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. Confronted with violent attacks by the Ku Klux Klan and other racist terrorists, southern blacks adopted Martin Luther King's philosophy of nonviolent resistance as a tactic, Wendt argues, but at the same time armed themselves out of necessity and pride. Sophisticated self-defense units patrolled black neighborhoods, guarded the homes of movement leaders, rescued activists from harm, and occasionally traded shots with their white attackers. These patrols enhanced and sustained local movements in the face of white aggression. They also provoked vigorous debate within traditionally nonviolent civil rights organizations such as SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP.
This study reevaluates black militants such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party and also appraises largely unknown protective agencies in Tuscaloosa, Cleveland, and other locales. Not confined to one state, one organization, or the best-known activists, this is the first balanced history of armed self-defense that begins with the southern civil rights movement and ends with the Black Power era.
Drawing on extensive research from a wide variety of sources to build his case, Wendt argues that during the Black Power years, armed resistance became largely symbolic and ultimately counterproductive to the black struggle--no longer coexisting with peaceful protest in "the spirit and the shotgun" philosophy that had served the southern movement so effectively. This is an essential volume for historians and students of the era.
Simon Wendt teaches American history at the University of Frankfurt.
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…an artfully crafted, well-balanced book that will complement other general studies of the civil rights movement.
--The Journal of American History
…a most valuable, impeccable piece of scholarship.
"This book makes valuable contributions…and will be a welcome text for undergraduate courses, as it is one of the few works that effectively historicizes nonviolence and self-defence as ideological and strategic components of the Civil Rights Movement.
--The Journal of American Ethnic History
" Simon Wendt has provided a new insight into the dynamics of the civil rights movement by declaring that, however ineffectual armed defense might have been, African Americans protected themselves, their families, and their communities from white violence by taking up arms. Scholars of the civil rights movement will find it enlightening and useful."
--The Alabama Review
" This book makes valuable contributions, and scholars of the civil rights era will find much to discuss in Wendt's analysis. One of the few works that effectively historicizes nonviolence and self-defense as ideological and strategic components of the Civil Rights Movement."
--Journal of American Ethnic History
" A fine work of history that should be well-received in the field. Of the many recent books on armed resistance in the Civil Rights Movement, 'The Spirit and the Shotgun' may well top the list."
"The Spirit and the Shotgun succeeds in demonstrating the close connection between self-defense and tactical nonviolence in the southern struggle. A thought-provoking work and a must read for anyone interested in understanding the similarities and differences in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements."
--Journal of African American History
" Thoughtful, nuanced and tightly argued. A significant addition to this new shelf of work in the library of civil rights studies."
--Journal of American Studies
" Wendt has shined the light on one of the darkest corners of civil rights historiography. Deserves to be read by those seeking enlightenment on the foot soldiers of the movement. Anyone seeking an understanding of how dignity, manhood, and self-respect guided the actions of local people should read this book, as it is a significant contribution not only to the fields of civil rights and American history but also to the history of human nature and its intrinsic unwillingness to go down without a fight."
--The Jounal of Southern History
"Opened a new angle of vision on the way nonviolence worked in the southern freedom struggle, and challenged neat scholarly assumptions about the similarities between defense movements in the South and the North."
--Georgia Historical Quarterly