Mullane Literary Associates

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed by Charles Cobb, Jr.

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed Charles Cobb, Jr.

A 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominee

Praise for Charles Cobb, Jr.’s This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed

[A] richly detailed memoir...

New York Times Book Review

Brilliantly situates the civil rights movement in the context of Southern life and gun culture, with a thesis that is unpacked by way of firsthand and personal accounts.”

Library Journal, starred review

Reviews the long tradition of self-protection among African Americans, who knew they could not rely on local law enforcement for protection.... Understanding how the use of guns makes this history of the civil rights movement more compelling to readers, Cobb is nonetheless focused on the determination of ordinary citizens, women included, to win their rights.”

Booklist, starred review

Cobb’s bracing and engrossing celebration of black armed resistance ties together two of founding principles of the Republic—individual equality and the right to arm oneself against tyranny—and the hypocrisy and ambiguity evident still in their imbalanced application.”

Publishers Weekly

“A frank look at the complexities and contradictions of the civil rights movement, particularly with regard to the intertwined issues of nonviolence and self-defense....Thought-provoking and studded with piercing ironies.

Kirkus Reviews

Powerfully and with great depth, Charles Cobb examines the organizing tradition of the southern Freedom Movement.... While Cobb challenges the orthodox narrative of the ‘nonviolent’ movement, this is much more than a book about guns. It is essential reading.”

Julian Bond, NAACP Chairman Emeritus

[A] revelatory new history of armed self-defense and the civil rights movement.”


Brings the Freedom Movement to life in an unexpected way, shaking up conventional historical views and changing the conversation about individual freedom and personal protection that continues today...A nuanced exploration of the complex relationship between nonviolent civil disobedience and the threat of armed retaliation.”

Shelf Awareness for Readers

Masterfully told...a challenging and important new narrative.”

The Root

[A] brilliant book...A serious analytical work of the African-American southern Freedom Struggle, Cobb’s book...deserves a prominent place on everyone’s reading list.”

Against the Current

The most important movement book in many years.... Charles Cobb uses long-standing confusion over the distinction between violence and nonviolence as an entrée to rethinking many fundamental misconceptions about what the civil rights movement was and why it was so powerful. This level of nuance requires a disciplined observer, an engaged participant, and a lyrical writer. Cobb is all these.”

Charles M. Payne, author of I’ve Got the Light of Freedom

A passionate, intellectually disciplined reordering of the conventional narrative to include armed self-defense as a central component of the black movement's success. 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.”

Hodding Carter III, Professor of Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Timely, controversial, and well documented, contravenes a history as old as George Washington and Andrew Jackson and as new as George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. Don’t miss it.”

Bob Moses, former director of SNCC's Mississippi voter registration program and founder of the Algebra Project

An important and mind-opening book of recent American history and social change that is still evolving. It will open a lot of minds in America, and maybe even the United Nations, to the true importance of self-defense as a civil and human right.”

The Gun Mag

“In this challenging book, Charles Cobb, a former organizer, examines the role of guns in the civil rights movement.”

Mother Jones

“This book will have readers who might have nothing else in common politically reaching for a copy.”

PJ Media

A powerful mixture of history and memoir, a scholarly and emotionally engaging account....This is one of those books that is going to have people from across the political spectrum buying it for different reasons. One can hope that those on both left and right can learn from this book.”

Clayton E. Cramer, author of Armed America

Blending compelling experience with first-rate scholarship, Charles E. Cobb Jr. traces the way that armed self-defense and nonviolent direct action worked sometimes in tension but mostly in tandem in the African American freedom struggle. Crafted with powerful clarity and engaging prose...this is easily the best, most accessible, and most comprehensive book on the subject.

Timothy B. Tyson, author of Radio Free Dixie and Blood Done Sign My Name

Charles Cobb’s graceful prose and electrifying history throw down a gauntlet: can we understand any part of the Freedom Struggle apart from America’s unique romanticization of violence and gun culture? This absorbing investigation shows how guns are often necessary, but not sufficient, to live out political democracy.”

Wesley Hogan, Director, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

A marvelous contribution to our understanding the modern Black Freedom Struggle... Cobb writes from personal experience on the frontlines of SNCC’s voter registration work while also using the skills of journalist, historian, and teacher. A compelling and wonderfully nuanced book.”

Emilye Crosby, author of A Little Taste of Freedom and editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up

This long overdue book...tells our story demonstrating that black people have always been willing to stand their ground and do whatever was necessary to free themselves from bondage and to defend their families and communities....a must-read for understanding the southern Freedom Movement.

David Dennis, former Mississippi Director, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Director, Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project

“Cobb defies the popular narrative with accounts of the grit and courage of armed stalwarts of the modern movement who invoked the ancient right of self-defense under circumstances where we should expect nothing less. This book is an important contribution to a story that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.”

Nicholas Johnson, Fordham Law School and author of Negroes and the Gun

“Any book that has as its central thesis that armed self-defense was essential both to the existence and the success of the Civil Rights Movement is bound to stir up controversy. But Charles Cobb, combining the rigor of a scholar with the experience (and passion) of a community organizer, has made his case. This book is a major contribution to the historiography of the black freedom struggle.”

John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

About the Author

Charles E. Cobb, Jr. is a former National Geographic magazine staff writer and a former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and has also served as a Visiting Professor in Brown University’s Department of Africana Studies. A veteran journalist, he is an inductee of the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, and his reporting has won multiple awards. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida.