Sights and sounds of Ax Handle Saturday etched in witness’s mind
This photograph provided by Alton Yates shows a mob of men, some wielding ax handles and other implements against peaceful protesters, on Ax Handle Saturday. “Not a single member of one group came into contact with a single member of the opposite group,” he said. But national publication LIFE magazine had already published proof of the violence that happened on the day that came to be known as Ax Handle Saturday: a photo of Charlie Griffin in a bloodied shirt with a gash above his eye. In 1960, the mayor told one story of Ax Handle Saturday. February is Black History Month, and News4Jax is celebrating Black culture by highlighting stories in the community.
Civil rights activist points out errors in proclamation commemorating Ax Handle Saturday
The biggest honor was a proclamation from the United States Department of the Interior that commemorates the day Ax Handle Saturday happened. But according to local civil rights activist Rodney Hurst, the 1960 NAACP Youth Council president who was 16 years old when he and others were attacked on Ax Handle Saturday, the proclamation has multiple errors. The second line in the proclamation states Ax Handle Saturday resulted in the eventual integration of public accommodations citywide.But Hurst said thats false. And the proclamation states the civil rights movement in Jacksonville began with Ax Handle Saturday. Hurst said facts are needed for a moment in history that has shaped the local and national civil rights movement for generations to come.
Memory of Ax Handle Saturday still pains beating victim’s brother
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A photograph of a Black teenager beaten, bloodied and bruised is perhaps the most prominent image of Ax Handle Saturday. “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. Cameras captured the chaos and cruelty, but the photograph of Charlie Griffin became the face of Ax Handle Saturday. But my dad said, ’Well, he ain’t dead, so everything is going to be alright,” Benjamin Griffin said. “He got away,” Benjamin Griffin saidCharlie Griffin died in 2002.
GALLERY: 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thursday marks the 60th anniversary of the 1960 sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday, the day a mob of white men with axes and bats attacked young black people after a peaceful sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in downtown Jacksonville. Above are photos of the event at James Weldon Johnson Park, formerly known as Hemming Park on Thursday.
Jacksonville NAACP reflects on 60th anniversary of Ax Handle Saturday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville NAACP’s Youth Council commemorated a somber anniversary Thursday -- 60 years since Ax Handle Saturday. “My mom said she couldn’t even go into that building and now her son has an office in that building and it’s thanks to you Mr. Hurst,” Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby said. Rodney Hurst was the 16-year-old president of the NAACP Youth Council on that fateful day. Full Screen 1 / 37 Jacksonville NAACP reflects on 60th anniversary of Ax Handle SaturdayBishop Rudolph McKissick Sr., pastor emeritus of Bethel Church, was among the local leaders who took part in the ceremony, which took place virtually and with social distancing protocols. All week, News4Jax has been highlighting stories from Hurst and others who vividly remember Ax Handle Saturday and we spoke with experts, who put into perspective how that day shaped the history of the River City.
Biden, Trump administration acknowledge grim moment in Jacksonville history
The Jacksonville NAACPs Youth Council commemorated the 60th anniversary of the civil rights demonstration and infamous attack in a ceremony Thursday afternoon in James Weldon Johnson Park, where the attacks took place in 1960. This tragic event, now known as Ax Handle Saturday, leaves a lasting mark on Jacksonville, as both a testament to the progress that has been made and a reminder that we must always stand up for whats right. Today, we continue their fight against injustice and for equality for Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many more. Trumps administration did acknowledge the events with the proclamation, although some facts in it were disputed by the organizers of Thursdays commemoration. Today, the @realDonaldTrump Administration rightly recognized the horrors of #AxHandleSaturday and officially designated newly-named James Weldon Johnson Park as part of the African American Civil Rights Network.
Divided by color: Jacksonville’s racially segregated past
But, as history has shown, Jacksonville wasn’t always a melting pot of acceptance, especially for people of color. At the time, Toler said, Black people in Jacksonville could not come and go where they pleased. The attack, one that Toler says was allowed to happen, would become known as Ax Handle Saturday, one of the most brutal and bloodiest events in Jacksonville’s history. “The students had to know the Bill of Rights,” Toler said. She said local media overlooked the violence that unfolded on Ax Handle Saturday.
2 retired Jacksonville police officers reflect on Ax Handle Saturday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of white men, wielding ax handles and bats, attacked young Black youths staging a sit-in on Aug. 27, 1960, at a segregated lunch counter in downtown Jacksonville. Sixty years later, a retired Jacksonville police chief still remembers what it felt like to know he and other Black officers were not able to help protect those victims. “I became a little frustrated by it,” said retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief Charles Scriven. He said Black police officers were essentially hired to be a buffer between white police officers and the Black community. But the Black officers were told not to deviate from their jurisdiction, which was only in area filled with mostly Black residents.
In 1960, the mayor told one story of Ax Handle Saturday. A photo told the truth.
Rodney Hurst, the group’s president, said the council’s adviser, Rutledge Pearson, told them white men wearing Confederate uniforms and carrying ax handles were spotted downtown. RELATED: Teens carried ‘healthy fear’ into Ax Handle Saturday | Survivor relives Ax Handle Saturday violenceWhen they arrived, Hurst said, they found a mob of white men swinging at any Black person they saw. Griffin would later tell Hurst that a white man had rushed him and took a swing at him with an ax handle, Hurst said in his blog. Griffin told Hurst he tried to defend himself but he was quickly outnumbered. SPECIAL SECTION: Reflecting on Ax Handle Saturday, 60 years laterEven though local media coverage was lacking, the violent outburst got national attention.
Nat Glover credits his strength as a leader to moment of fear on Ax Handle Saturday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Nathaniel Glover Jr. was leaving his dish-washing job alone on Aug. 27, 1960, when the then-17-year-old walked out into the middle of Ax Handle Saturday in Hemming Park. I had never been that frightened in all my life.Glover would become a pillar of strength and courage, but said he owes it to that moment of fear. He said he still vividly remembers the faces of the men who surrounded him with their ax handles, bats and clubs. Maybe it had to happen to me.Despite what his friends told him, Glover became Floridas first African American sheriff elected since the Reconstruction era. Nat Glover was the sheriff of Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003.
Survivor relives violence from Ax Handle Saturday
One of the worst days he can recall was Aug. 27, 1960, a day we know as Ax Handle Saturday. So thats what prompted me to join the NAACP Youth Council.At the age of 23, Yates joined the NAACP Youth Council and then became its vice president. This photograph provided by Yates shows a mob of men, some wielding ax handles and other implements against peaceful protesters, on Ax Handle Saturday. After we had been seated for a few minutes, evidently one of them had spotted us and he yelled to the group and a large group of them came charging into the store, Yates recalled. These days, when Yates reflects on his time as a peaceful protester, he fondly remembers the time he spent serving the NAACP Youth Council.
Teens carried healthy fear into Ax Handle Saturday
The Pittsburgh Courier, an out-of-state African American-run newspaper, was one of the only news organizations that covered Ax Handle Saturday. I am sitting in the front row and the judge said, Alright young man, for the record, point out Rodney Hurst, Hurst recalled. After Ax Handle Saturady, the fight for equality continued. Though local media did not cover the events of Ax Handle Saturday, the event received courage from out-of-town news organizations like The Pittsburgh Courier. Hurst continues to educate locally and throughout the country about the Civil Rights movement, specifically Ax Handle Saturday.
Pain & pride remain for those tied to Jacksonville’s sit-ins
Those included now 98-year-old Lloyd Pearson Jr. and his family. “It was quite a time, quite a time,” Pearson told News4Jax from his Northwest Jacksonville home, where he still lives today. “[Demonstrators] were advised to go in the store and keep their eyes on the counter,” Lloyd Pearson recalled. The downtown Jacksonville Post Office has been named after him, as well as a street and elementary school in the city. And at 98 years old, Lloyd Pearson is still active in the community, hoping to make it a better place.
Ax Handle Saturday protester: ‘No one backed away’
“Perhaps that one day, Ax Handle Saturday, was the first time that I really felt true fear,” she said. Among the peaceful protesters were Youth NAACP President Rodney Hurst, Vice President Alton Yates and Meeks Brown, the group’s secretary. “No one backed away,” Meeks Brown said. “No one backed away.”As a child, Meeks Brown lived at the intersection Moncrief Road and 30th Street. Photograph of a young Marjorie Meeks Brown (Courtesy of Marjorie Meeks Brown)“There’s a swimming pool for whites only,” she remembered.
Historian reflects on events of ‘Ax Handle Saturday'
It was Aug. 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. 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. In 1959, the year before Ax Handle Saturday, Nathan B. Forrest High School opened in Jacksonville, celebrating the memory of the first grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. It is believed that the Ku Klux Klan organized the violence of Ax Handle Saturday.
Witness: Lot of progress since Ax Handle Saturday
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. It has been 60 years since the brutal display of violence now known as Ax Handle Saturday unfolded in downtown Jacksonville. And they came in with their baseball bats and ax handles and they started beating on us. He said officials began desegregating public schools in the early 60s, which included Ribault and Raines high schools in Northwest Jacksonville. Ribault High and Ribault Junior High those schools were built for the white kids who lived in the Lake Forest-Ribault neighborhood where I lived, he said. Finally by 1963, you had a situation where about 13 students, African American students, were integrated into five white schools, Lisska told News4Jax, noting that other civil rights issues came to light in the 60s.