Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ax Handle Saturday.

As part of Juneteenth the Well's Built Museum hosted a literary review where author Rodney L. Hurst S. spoke about his book, "It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!". The book recounts Rodaney's personal account of the 1960 sit in demonstrations in Jacksonville Florida. At age 11 he joined the National Association of Colored People (NAACP).
Woolworth Department store would accept a black persons money at one counter but not allow the same person the right to shop at another counter. The store had two lunch counters one had the sign that read, FOR WHITES ONLY. The other counter located in the far reaches of the store had 15 seats and no windows. This was FOR BLACKS ONLY. The plan was for the students to buy something in the store, which was easy enough to do, and then as a group they would sit down at the white lunch counter. The first sit in was on August 13th 1960. The students employed the philosophy of passive resistance being sure to keep the sit ins non violent. They wore their Sunday best. At the first sit in, the white waitress shouted out, "This is the white lunch counter. The colored lunch counter is in the back of the store." The students continued to sit. A crowd of white onlookers assembled and started shouting racial slurs. When the lunch hour was over the students left the sit in one at a time but each student encountered some form of physical and verbal abuse from the assembled crowd. These sit ins continued for well over a week.
On August 27th 1960 several members of the NAACP drove past Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville and noticed several white men dressed in confederate uniforms. More men walked around the park carrying ax handles with confederate flags tapped to them. A van parked on the street had a sign on it that read, "Free ax handles." The 34 students gathered in the youth center that day were told about the men in the park and they had to decide if they would go on with the sit in that day. They voted unanimously to demonstrate. Rather than go to Woolworth which was right across from the park, the students decided to sit in at Grants Department store which also had a Whites only lunch counter. When the students sat in at Grants the store manager turned out all the store lights.
As the students exited Grants, they saw a mob of whites carrying ax handles running towards them from the park. They swung the ax handles at any black they encountered, many having nothing to do with the sit ins. The students scattered and ran but many were severely beaten that day. There were 34 students who demonstrated that day and 200 Whites with baseball bats and ax handles. The violence escalated that day with rocks thrown at cars and a few shots fired but there were no fatalities. 162 people were reported injured that day.
When most of the students were back at the youth center, the reverend offered an encompassing prayer in which he said, "No one can turn us around." and "The die is cast." As everyone joined in singing "We shall overcome," the tears flowed. The demonstrations were never about being served food at a store counter, they were about human dignity and respect.

"Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-George Santanyana

2 comments:

PerfectHannah said...

My is all twisty from reading this. People are so horrible.

Thor said...

Trying to guess what is all twisty. I am guessing your intestines.