Democrat Efforts to Keep Blacks Unarmed in Post-Civil War South

Civil War lessons often depend on where the classroom is Photo
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Defeated Confederate Democrats used the tactic of gun control to keep blacks unarmed in the immediate post-Civil War South, and Democrats in the 20th century used gun control for similar ends.

The gun control approach was an easy one for Democrats who wanted to ensure there was no armed resistance to the Ku Klux Klan’s terrorizing night rides after the Civil War. The KKK and the night rides were both tools which Democrats used to frighten black Republicans out of voting in the South and fully participating in southern civic life.

The theory was simple: If Democrats could keep blacks from voting or participating in southern society they could preserve the South as a Democrat stronghold. Gun control was integral to the plan.

Writing in the Hill, David Kopel and Joseph Greenlee explained, “As the Special Report of the Paris Anti-Slavery Conference of 1867 found, freedmen in some southern states ‘were forbidden to own or bear firearms, and thus were rendered defenseless against assault.’ Thus, white supremacists could continue to control freedmen through threat of violence.”

This is certainly shocking language for the post-modern 21st century consumer of establishment media, all of whom are being trained to see white supremacy as a moniker for Republicans. But historically—and therefore, realistically—white supremacy has been owned by the Democrat Party. After all, the Confederate nation was a Democrat nation, the Ku Klux Klan was comprised of Democrats, post-Civil War southern Black Codes were instituted by Democrats, and Jim Crow laws were a 21st century Democrat-sponsored redo of the Black Codes.

What this means is that the Civil War was not over when it ended. Rather, southern Democrats continued to look for ways to prevent blacks from entering into the fullness of freedom, and gun control was one of the Democrats’ strongest tools.

This was not lost on leaders who lived during the post-Civil War era. Kopel and Greenlee wrote, “Guns have historically protected Americans from white supremacists, just as gun control has historically protected white supremacists from the Americans they terrorize. One month after the Confederate surrender in 1865, Frederick Douglass urged federal action to stop state and local infringement of the right to arms. Until this was accomplished, Douglass argued, ‘the work of the abolitionists is not finished.’”

Yet the history of the Democrat Party is one of finding new ways to institute gun control once the old ways are defeated. Thus, after the civil rights of blacks were set forth and understood via constitutional amendments, Democrats in former Confederate states used gun bans and carry prohibitions to ensure blacks could not be armed in public. States like Tennessee and Arkansas created laws that made gun ownership cost prohibitive for blacks and South Carolina passed anti-carry laws that meted out one punishment for whites and a much harsher punishment for blacks who violated the law.

The goal was clear—to keep 20th century blacks unarmed the same way Democrats had used gun control to keep blacks defenseless in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at


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