Black History Month with LD Azobra “The Deacons for Defense and Justice”
The Deacons for Defense and Justice was an armed Black self-defense group founded in November 1964, during the civil rights era in Jonesboro, LA. African Americans were harassed and attacked by white KKK vigilantes in Jonesboro in 1964 including the torching of five churches, a Masonic hall and a Baptist center. The police and sheriff in the south as well as most government organizations were all infiltrated by the Klan.As a result, the only protection the people had against the Klan was the Deacons. On February 21, 1965—the day of Malcolm X’s assassination—the first affiliated chapter was founded in Bogalusa, LA, followed by a total of 20 other chapters.
The Deacons had strict membership criteria for applicants. They accepted only male American citizens over the age of 21. They preferred married men with military service, as well as registered voters. They vigorously upheld their stance of only acting in defense. Every member of the Deacons had to pledge his life for the defense of justice, black people, and for civil rights workers.
Although the FBI and white media regarded the Deacons as bringers of race warfare, they actually worked closely with CORE in their nonviolent protests as a way to bring about change. Activist Roy Innis said that the Deacons “forced the Klan to re-evaluate their actions and often change their undergarments.”
The Deacons were recognized as a nonprofit corporation, according to papers filed March 9, 1965, with the Louisiana Secretary of State. The charter noted the Deacons’ purpose was to “instruct, teach and educate Citizens of the United States and especially minority groups in the fundamental principles of the republican form of government and our democratic way of life.”