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Novel chronicles ‘Deacons’ who came before Panthers

The Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba Gray spent 20-plus years researching and interviewing the men who were involved in the Deacons For Defense organization. by Danny Tennial
Special to the Tri-State Defender

The Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, pastor of New Sardis Baptist Church, has just published a book entitled “The Deacons For Defense and Justice,” which tells the story of brave African-American men in Bogalusa, La., who armed themselves to protect their community from extremists such as The Ku Klux Klan.

 Rev. LaSimba Gray signs a book
The Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba Gray on the book-signing trail with his new book, “The Deacons For Defense and Justice.” (Courtesy photo)

Gray spent 20-plus years researching and interviewing the men who were involved in the Deacons For Defense organization.

“They are the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement,” Gray said.

The history of the Deacons includes defended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in southern towns where his life was threatened. It is a true story of African-American men fortified by the Second Amendment right to bare arms choosing to defy the brutality of racist law enforcement officers and civilians.

The Black Panther Party, which would come later, drew inspiration from the Deacons. Unlike the Panthers, however, The Deacons for Defense preferred to operate below the media radar of the turbulent 60’s.

Gray said he had to relate the true story of the Deacons in a novel form to protect the identity of some of its members. The stories for the book were from eyewitness accounts and newspaper clippings of the time. Many of the surviving Deacons still are bitter about their experience with southern lawmen and civilians, according to Gray.

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