JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Saturday marks 62 years since Ax Handle Saturday in Jacksonville when a mob of white men downtown chased and beat African Americans with ax handles and other weapons.
Headlines about the incident read: “Racial fury over sit-ins” and “Youth leader’s arrest seen as a move to kill sit-ins.”
While the attack followed sit-in demonstrations staged by activists from the NAACP youth council at segregated lunch counters, others -- some of them children -- quickly fell victim to the mob violence on Aug. 27, 1960.
A three-day civil rights conference in Jacksonville that had been delayed two years by the COVID-19 pandemic wrapped up Saturday with a discussion of the horrific but historical event.
RELATED: Newly unearthed footage offers glimpse into Ax Handle Saturday | In 1960, the mayor told one story of Ax Handle Saturday. A photo told the truth. | Survivor relives violence from Ax Handle Saturday | Sights and sounds of Ax Handle Saturday etched in witness’s mind | Historian reflects on events of ‘Ax Handle Saturday’
During the final day of the conference Saturday, young members of the Jacksonville community shed light on what they want to see changed.
“If you do not vote and participate in this community, in this government, I think it devalues everything else you can do,” one panelist said.
Among the youth speakers and other panelists was civil rights leader Rodney Hurst, who led the NAACP youth council that hosted the sit-in protests in 1960.
“What I hear these young people saying (is) we want to be advocates for honesty and truth,” Hurst said.
Hurst said in moving the city forward, those who are not a part of the solution are part of the problem.
His message resonated with Kennedy Rhett, an Atlantic Coast High School junior who was also on the panel.
“I was mentioning how the school board is a part of the problem because African American history curriculum isn’t in Duval County Schools curriculum. African American history is important because it affects everyone and everyone is included in it and everyone can make a change to make it better,” Rhett said. “I’m trying to write my AP research paper on why African American history should be taught in Duval County public schools.”
The panelists encouraged collaboration in the community from people of all ages, and they thanked the organizers of the convention for the space to discuss ways to move Jacksonville forward.
For more on the conference, including sponsors and how to become involved, click here.