60 years later, Ax Handle Saturday now a mural on Eastside

Mural aims to provide teachable lesson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Colors of white, black and gray swirl together to tell the story of one of Jacksonville’s lowest moments in humanity.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, 1960, a group of black teenagers was attacked while protesting for equal rights in a then-segregated Jacksonville.

More than 200 white men equipped with ax handles and baseball bats went after the group sitting at a lunch counter. The horrific day in Jacksonville history is known as Ax Handle Saturday. And it’s now becoming a teaching moment through the new mural on the Eastside.

Rodney Hurst, one of the teenagers who was assaulted 60 years ago, had been participating in peaceful sit-ins for two weeks.

“At the end of those two weeks, we were attacked by 200 whites with ax handles and baseball bats, after men in Confederate uniforms had given out free ax handles in Hemming Park that morning,” Hurst said.

No one tried to stop the men, Hurst said.

“There were no police around,” he said. “So when we were attacked, there was no one to protect us.”

Hurst has written a book about the attack titled, "It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke."

A mural of the attack can be seen wrapping around the Eastside Brotherhood building at 915 A Philip Randolph Blvd.

Hurst teaches students about civil rights using the mural as a tool.

Dr. Rudy Jamison, along with teachers, artists, students and other community leaders, worked together to get the mural on the Eastside building.

“You may see several things, but it’s built around community,” Jamison said.

Jamison, an Eastside Brotherhood member, grew up two minutes from the mural site.

Members have been giving back to the community since 1981 and the mural is the gift of history. It’s a visual lesson for everyone, showing that generations of people have fought for civil rights, but Jamison also wants the community to see the mural as an invitation.

“A common story in neighborhoods like out east is a desire to get out of the neighborhood,” Jamison said. “What we would like to extend is an invitation to come back to the neighborhood and that's what the Brotherhood is all about. So when we convene and we commune, it's in the spirit of love.”

Even in 2018, Hurst said, people have a hard time talking about the racist history of the United States, but he believes until the topic is discussed and acknowledged, the country will never heal.

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