Rodney L. Hurst, Sr. came to our school on Thursday, April 22, 2010. He arrived at about 2:20 p.m. and began speaking immediately. He spoke for at least an hour and a half. Most people would assume that it would be boring and long. Those were my first assumptions, as well. But I was wrong. I sat there the entire time, intrigued by the words coming out of Mr. Hurst’s mouth.
In 1960, Mr. Hurst was the president of the youth division of the NAACP at the age of 16 and during the time of Ax Handle Saturday. If you would have asked me a week ago what Ax Handle Saturday was, I would have shrugged and said, “I have no idea.” After researching Mr. Hurst and Ax Handle Saturday (for schoolwork), I knew nothing more than the general facts about what happened on that day.
From Mr. Hurst, I learned that the youth division of the NAACP participated in sit-ins at white lunch counters. They figured that since they were denied their rights, then the lunch counters should lose some money. On August 27, 1960, they were just sitting at another white lunch counter, protesting in another sit-in; but this time, while leaving they were surrounded by 200 white men with ax handles and baseball bats. Some of the men were Ku Klux Klan. The members of the youth group ran as fast as they could to safety. Some were more hurt than others, but I do not think anyone was killed.
Before last Thursday, I had assumed that Jacksonville, Florida was just another city in the South. I was aware that there was racism and segregation here, but I thought that was a “classic” description of any southern city. By 3:45 p.m., however, I learned how wrong I was. Jacksonville, Florida was extremely segregated and was home to many racist people. The papers covered it up; the city didn’t want the world to know what they had done. The only people who heard about it were other Blacks. It was vaguely mentioned in the part of the newspaper called “News for and About the Colored People”, a section of the Florida Times Union that was only delivered to the homes of ‘colored people’.Although he did not go into extreme detail, we were still able to ‘get the picture’.
But by the time Mr. Hurst left, I not only knew more details of the events of 1960, but I had a personal perspective of what it was like. Rodney L. Hurst, Sr. was there; he wasn’t a by-stander. If he hadn’t run, he would have been seriously injured or worse.
Listening to Rodney L. Hurst, Sr. really made me open my eyes. I knew about racism and anti-Semitism, but I never knew how bad it was, especially in my home city. I know to be open minded and care for others- through learning about Jewish history-but now I have “seen” the result of what happens when people choose to be cruel to others. I don’t understand why people just can’t except each other’s beliefs or see past the color of their skin. When everyone learns to accept people for the person on the inside, not judge the outside, then our world will be in much better shape!