Books: Non-Fiction

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible

Book — Non-fiction. By Charles E. Cobb Jr. 2015. 328 pages.
Cobb Jr. describes the vital role that armed self-defense played in the survival and liberation of black communities in America during the Southern Freedom Movement of the 1960s.

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1961
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Racism & Racial Identity

Charles Cobb’s book, This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, is essential reading for anyone teaching the Civil Rights Movement because it calls into question much of what we think we know about nonviolence and the agency of African Americans in the South.

Cobb focuses on the seldom-told role of armed self-defense within the context of a nonviolent movement. His aim is to “force a reappraisal of the movement and to open the door to new ways of understanding what happened in the South in the 1950s and 60s.” Cobb writes not only as a journalist, but also from his firsthand experience as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi, where he played a lead role in launching Freedom Schools.

This is grassroots history, drawing on the thinking “of Freedom Movement veterans who have formed the intellectual spine of this book.” Hodding Carter III, journalist and fellow 60s activist in the South, says: “Read it and be reminded that history is not a record etched in stone by journalists and academics, but a living stream, fed and redirected by the bottom-up witness of its participants.” [Description by Rethinking Schools.]

ISBN: 9780822361237 | Duke University Press