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Ax Handle Saturday • August 27, 1960
Racial unrest began to grow in the late 1950s and early 1960s throughout the South in reaction to the extremely slow progress being made in addressing segregation of public facilities, schools and businesses.
In addition, anger was also directed at the continued lack of economic equality. The use of non-violent demonstrations and sit-ins many times resulted in a violent response by those in support of maintaining the status quo. In Jacksonville, civil rights demonstrations were first organized and initiated by members of the Youth Council of the Jacksonville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAAC P) under the direction of local social studies teacher, Rutledge Pearson. After numerous sit-ins at the lunch counter of several downtown department stores, members of the Youth Council were brutally attacked by segregationists armed with axe handles and baseball bats. This event, which occurred on August 27, 1960, is known as “Ax Handle Saturday.” The notoriety of “Ax Handle Saturday,” and later demonstrations in 1964, did much to end segregation and improve race relations in Jacksonville.