cover image Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms

Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms

Nicholas Johnson. Prometheus Books, $19.95 trade paper (340p) ISBN 978-1-61614-839-3

Expected to be subservient first as slaves and then as second-class freedmen, African-Americans spent generations expecting neither legal justice nor fair treatment from law enforcement. In this provocative book, Johnson (Firearms Law and the Second Amendment), a legal expert on gun issues, agrees with Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass that gun ownership for blacks helped level the disparity between races, allowing both men and women to protect themselves from being returned to slavery or becoming the next lynching victims while also allowing some to work as Buffalo soldiers or as cowboys. Johnson notes that the presence of guns sometimes unwittingly escalated violence, and he devotes a brief chapter to modern black-on-black violence, the result of a strain of historical gun ownership evolving into a “criminal microculture.” Filled with tightly packed, well-documented anecdotes—with some of the best centering on women such as “Black Mary” Fields, who worked for nuns and successfully dueled with a white man in front of them—this book redefines the image of black Americans who chose a strong, spirited fight for self-preservation. Photos. (Jan.)