Natchez Deacons for Defense and Justice

The Natchez Deacons for Defense and Justice was a militant group founded after the attacks on George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson and other acts of violence against the black community, many of which were perpetrated by the Klan, with the Natchez group considered one of the strongest in the state. A group of men had met before the attack on Metcalf, organizing because of the lack of police protection for black activists. Most in the group were in the NAACP as well, and were respected members of the community. Following the attempted murder of Metcalf, James Jackson, a local barber, announced the creation of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Their group was based on a paramilitary group in Louisiana that was effective in protecting activists in Bogalusa and Jonesboro. The Natchez Deacons organized quickly, and provided security during marches and meetings. Members were largely natives of Natchez, having grown up together. The group functioned secretively, and effectively hid vital information, such as the size of the group and its tactics, from the Sovereignty Commission and Klan. The efforts of the Deacons illustrated that anti-civil rights violence would not continue without cost to the perpetrators. When combined with the economic boycotts, the Deacons sent a message to city officials that demanded negotiations. A small faction of the Deacons also enforced boycotts, demanding answers from black community members who continued to shop in white stores.
Similar groups were founded throughout the state, with groups in Copiah and Claiborne counties notable examples.

Sources:

Dittmer, John. Local People: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.

Adams County