The Deacons for Defense and Justice was an armed Black self defense group who stood up against the KKK and discriminatory treatment by police in the Jim Crow South. Though the group supported the values of MLK, they didn’t subscribe to his nonviolent philosophy.On July 10, 1964, a group of African American men in Jonesboro, Louisiana led by Earnest “Chilly Willy” Thomas and Frederick Douglas Kirkpatrick founded the group known as The Deacons for Defense and Justice to protect members of the Congress of Racial Equality against the KKK.
Most of the “Deacons” were veterans of World War II and the Korean War. The Jonesboro chapter organized its first affiliate chapter in nearby Bogalusa, Louisiana led by Charles Sims, A.Z. Young and Robert Hicks. Eventually they organized a third chapter in Louisiana.The Deacons tense confrontation with the Klan in Bogalusa was crucial in forcing the federal government to intervene on behalf of the local African American community. The national attention they garnered also persuaded state and national officials to initiate efforts to neutralize the Klan in that area of the Deep South.