Atlanta, GA

Emory College's Historian weighs in on the Second Amendment

Andrew Alvarez

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ATLANTA, GA — Carol Anderson, professor and historian at Emory College, has dedicated her time and research on how racial inequality and racism deeply affect the United States conducted its policy on a daily basis.

Her latest publication, “The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America,” argues that Black Americans have endured fractured and complicated citizenship ever since James Madison drafted the Second Amendment primarily to ensure white men could suppress potential slave revolts.

Anderson referred to the famous clause “well-regulated militia” as slave patrols. However, not as many people believe it referred to protection from government injustice practice or overreach. Since then, Black Americans have been portrayed as a continuous threat and prohibited from owning firearms.

“The evidence shows that the amendment is based on a foundational fear of Black people,” Anderson says. “We need to document this ongoing fear of Blackness in American society if we are going to have a full discussion about the Second Amendment today.”

When police killed Philando Castile, a Black man with a license to carry a gun, during a 2016 traffic stop, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies realized she had not applied her skills properly to answer a specific, constitutional question: “Do African-Americans have gun rights?”

Since the book was released on June 1, it has drawn critique and attention nationally on various media platforms. Anderson hopes the enthusiasm and conversation will continue into her classroom this fall when she is teaching about the Civil Rights Movement.

Students already have long played a role in Anderson’s research, and she acknowledges the Emory students and alumni who helped with “The Second”.

Among those who worked as research assistants, helping to find and organize historical records as well as talk through the findings with Anderson, are Ayriel Coleman, a rising senior majoring in history, and Timothy Rainey II, who earned his Ph.D. this spring and is now an assistant professor of religion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

“The anti-Blackness I’m describing in this book is to make legible what our students know from casual conversation, and I hope to get a sense from coursework what more conversations they may want to have,” Anderson says.

Those not enrolled in Anderson’s course also may join the conversation when she speaks at the Decatur Book Festival in October.

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