The Deacons of Defense emerged as one of the first visibly armed self-defense forces in the South during the Civil Rights Movement.  This represented a turn from the more traditional and widely embraced position of non-violence.   The Deacons of Defense were instrumental in providing protection in the south to local African Americans and civil rights workers.   Though prominent civil rights figures supporting non-violence publicly disagreed with this approach, The Deacons of Defense did provide some protection to them as well.  As you might imagine, the group came under the scrutiny of the FBI and many of its members were harassed.  At it’s height, it was reported that there were over 50 chapters.  The prominence of the group began to fade with the rise of “The Black Panther Party”.  In 2003 a made for TV movie was made about the group by Showtime.  It starred Forrest Whitaker and James Earl Jones.  Check out this youtube video for more info.