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NRA not formed to defend African Americans against KKK

June 24, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Juneteenth is “the day Republicans freed slaves from Democrat slave owners.” Shortly after, “the NRA was formed to help Black people defend themselves against the Democrats’ Ku Klux Klan.”

AP ASSESSMENT: False. The NRA was not formed to help Black people defend themselves against the klan. Rather, it began as an organization to improve marksmanship among members of the New York National Guard after the Civil War. Slaves were freed by the Union Army, not a political party.

THE FACTS: President Biden this month signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a federal holiday. The holiday marks the date Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

The passage of the act created extensive conversation on social media, which also included historical misinformation.

A post falsely claiming a relationship between the formation of the NRA and enslaved Black people circulated on Facebook and Twitter following the June 17 signing of the bill. The post shows an image of a Black woman holding a gun with text stating, “Juneteenth is the day Republicans freed the Slaves from Democrat slave owners. Shortly after the NRA was formed to help Black people defend themselves against the Democrats’ KKK.”

According to reporting by the AP, the KKK was created by Confederate veterans, not the Democratic Party.

“The KKK was a guerrilla terrorist organization. So to talk about the KKK in terms of open party affiliation doesn’t make a lot of sense because we’re talking about a different kind of entity all together,” says Joseph Lowndes, professor of political science at the University of Oregon. “There were Democrats in the South who were supportive of the KKK. And there are Democrats who weren’t.

The NRA was also not formed to help defend Black people against the KKK.

“The National Rifle Association was formed in New York City in 1871, by a group of former Union Army officers and veterans. They formed the NRA in order to improve marksmanship skills among the New York National Guard in anticipation of future wars,” said Frank Smyth, author of “The NRA: The Unauthorized History.” “They had nothing to do with the KKK or freed slaves.”

Smyth added that NRA co-founder William Conan Church, in his book “Ulysses S. Grant and the Period of National Preservation and Reconstruction,” never mentioned the NRA helping or arming freed slaves who were being abused and killed during Reconstruction.

It also isn’t historically accurate to claim that Republicans “freed slaves from Democrat slave owners.”

“It was the Union Army, not the Republican Party, that freed slaves from the Confederate States of America. It was not a Republican versus Democrat thing,” says Lowndes. “The Republican and Democratic parties ceased to function within the rebelling states. And there were plenty of Democrats who fought in their Union Army to end slavery as well.”

Furthermore, the Republican Party of today bears little resemblance to the one that originated in the North in 1854.

“The idea of Republicans being the party of Black equality is only true if you get in a time capsule and go back 100 years or more,” says Lowndes. “After the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the dominant party in the South and represented the maintenance of the Jim Crow segregationist political order. But after 1964, white Southern Democrats switched parties.”

“Strom Thurmond, who ran as the presidential candidate in 1948 for the state’s rights Democratic Party, ends up as a Republican and recruits other white Southern Jim Crow Democrats to switch parties, because he had become convinced that the Republican Party was going to be the party of white interests in the South after the 1960s.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536