University of North Florida Project Seeks to Educate Area Youth on Civil Rights History

The Hope and History Mural Project, an initiative of the University of North Florida’s Center for Urban Education and Policy (CUEP), is involving students, local leaders, and area artists to produce a mural in a public space that tells the story of African American neighborhoods of Jacksonville during the civil rights era. This project is part of a historically significant community-based learning curriculum that the CUEP developed to immerse students in understanding civil rights issues and meeting community leaders from a local perspective in order to foster a deeper understanding of historical, as well as modern, struggles against prejudice and oppression.

The project will focus on what is now called “Ax Handle Saturday.” In 1960, the Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People conducted a peaceful protest at a segregated lunch counter in downtown Jacksonville. Similar protest were held throughout the South in early 1960. The protestors were attacked and spit on. White onlookers beat the African American protestors with ax handles and baseball bats.

Rudy Jamison, CUEP community initiatives coordinator and visiting assistant professor of educational leadership, said that “Ax Handle Saturday is the quintessential public education and youth leadership development story where students fought for dignity and respect through sit-in demonstrations. Through this collaborative project, we hope to amplify a story of resistance in the spirit of hope, love, courage and agency.”

Dr. Jamison is a graduate of Florida A&M University. He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and an educational doctorate from the University of North Florida.

The high school students involved in the project are being guided by regional artists Roosevelt Watson III, Nicole Holderbaum and Suzanne Pickett as they conceptualize, prepare, design and implement their interpretations of regional events that occurred during the movement into a large-sized mural that the students will paint on the side of the Eastside Brotherhood Building. The mural is expected to be completed this summer.

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