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African Americans and the Insurrectionary Second Amendment

Summary: The moral and historical foundations of the insurrectionary Second Amendment must reckon with this paradox: African Americans, the Americans with the most right to resist tyranny, forswore violence as a tool of political change in favor of peaceful political protest.

  • David Miller Darrell A. H. Miller
Published: June 29, 2021

This essay is part of the series Protests, Insur­rec­tion, and the Second Amend­ment.

ABSTRACT: To an external observer, the moral and histor­ical found­a­tions of the insur­rec­tion­ary Second Amend­ment must look bizarre. Instead of build­ing an insur­rec­tion­ist theory around the one group — enslaved Afric­ans — who, by the framers’ own meas­ure, had the most right to resist tyranny, we have a Second Amend­ment theory of right­eous revolu­tion built on the griev­ances of slave owners. But the pecu­li­ar­ity does not stop there. It must seem equally odd to outsiders that insur­rec­tion­ist theory never adequately accounts for the fact that this one group, African Amer­ic­ans — with centur­ies of moral justi­fic­a­tion behind them — decided in the middle of the 20th century to reject viol­ent polit­ical dynam­ism in favor of nonvi­ol­ence. In short, what would Second Amend­ment insur­rec­tion­ism look like if it star­ted with the enslaved African and ended with the march across Edmund Pettus Bridge? This essay attempts to reckon with these twin para­doxes and reori­ent our think­ing about the cred­ib­il­ity of the insur­rec­tion­ary Second Amend­ment.

African Amer­ic­ans and the I… by The Bren­nan Center for Justice