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Ax Handle Saturday

Florida History To Know: What Is Ax Handle Saturday???

More than 200 white people wielding baseball bats and ax handles chased African Americans through the streets of downtown Jacksonville, trying to beat them into submission.

It was August 27, 1960, a day that became known as “Ax Handle Saturday.”

The violent attack was in response to peaceful lunch counter demonstrations organized by the Jacksonville Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The attack began with white people spitting on the protestors and yelling racial slurs at them. When the young demonstrators held their resolve, they were beaten with wooden handles that had not yet had metal ax heads attached.

While the violence was first aimed at the lunch counter demonstrators, it quickly escalated to include any African American in sight of the white mob. Police stood idly by watching the beatings until members of a black street gang called “The Boomerangs” attempted to protect those being attacked. At that point police night sticks joined the baseball bats and ax handles.

Bloodied and battered victims of the vicious beatings fled to a nearby church where they sought refuge and comfort from prayer and song. Eventually the white mob dispersed.

Sixteen-year-old Rodney L. Hurst was president of the Jacksonville Youth Council, leading sit-ins at “whites only” lunch counters in Woolworth’s and W.J. Grant Department Store to protest racial segregation.

Hurst has written about his experiences in the award-winning book “It was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke.”

History teacher Rutledge Pearson inspired Hurst to become involved in the civil rights movement at a very early age. Hurst says that Pearson was an innovative teacher who facilitated interactive classes. “As we talked about American history and as he gave us his insights, he would tell us ‘freedom is not free, and if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’ He would encourage us to join the Youth Council NAACP, which we did.”

"In August, the world will be watching Jacksonville as it is in the political limelight during the Republican National Convention. These educators believe it is a chance for the city to confront race relations this country.

The 60th anniversary commemoration of Ax Handle Saturday will happened August 27 at noon."

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