Memory of Ax Handle Saturday still pains beating victim’s brother

Black-and-white photograph shows Charlie Griffin beaten, bloodied and bruised

Black-and-white photograph shows Charlie Griffin beaten, bloodied and bruised.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A photograph of a Black teenager beaten, bloodied and bruised is perhaps the most prominent image of Ax Handle Saturday.

The teen pictured is Charlie Griffin. The black-and-white photo was published on page 37 in LIFE magazine weeks after the violence on Aug. 27, 1960.

His only surviving brother, Benjamin Griffin, recalled that day 60 years later.

“I remember a lot of police running, and people saying, ‘Hey, there’s a riot downtown.’ I didn’t know what a riot was,” explained Benjamin Griffin.

A group of white men with bats and ax handles attacked Black youths in what was then called Hemming Park and now named James Weldon Johnson Park. The youths attacked were NAACP Youth Council members who voted unanimously to continue their sit-in demonstrations at the white-only Woolworth lunch counter.

Cameras captured the chaos and cruelty, but the photograph of Charlie Griffin became the face of Ax Handle Saturday.

SPECIAL SECTION: Reflecting on Ax Handle Saturday, 60 years later

Benjamin Griffin said he was working that day, but two of his older brothers, Roosevelt and Charlie, were shopping downtown.

“I got off that afternoon, went home, and that’s when I found my brother, Charlie, all beat up and bruised up and bleeding. It really hurt me to see him in that way. But my dad said, ’Well, he ain’t dead, so everything is going to be alright,” Benjamin Griffin said. “I was scared.”

Roosevelt Griffin was not injured.

“He got away,” Benjamin Griffin said

Charlie Griffin died in 2002. Of their parent’s six children, Benjamin Griffin is the only one alive today. He said Charlie Griffin never spoke about what happened to him that day in August.

“Deep down inside, you don’t know what a person thinks about — being that hurt like that,” Benjamin Griffin

The images of Ax Handle Saturday remain in black and white, making way for everyone to move forward together in color.


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