• On August 27, 1960, over 200 white rioters armed with baseball bats and ax handles chased, beat, and threatened Black residents in Jacksonville, Florida.

    The Florida Historical Society describes the riot:

    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 (NAACP).

    The attack began with white people spitting on the protestors and yelling racial slurs at them. When the young demonstrators held their resolve, they were beaten with wooden handles that had not yet had metal ax heads attached.

    While the violence was first aimed at the lunch counter-demonstrators, it quickly escalated to include any African American in sight of the white mob. Police stood idly by watching the beatings until members of a Black street gang called “The Boomerangs” attempted to protect those being attacked. At that point, police nightsticks joined the baseball bats and ax handles.

    Bloodied and battered victims of the vicious beatings fled to a nearby church where they sought refuge and comfort from prayer and song. Eventually, the white mob dispersed.

    It is believed that the Ku Klux Klan organized the violence of Ax Handle Saturday. “The intent was to scare, intimidate, and bring physical harm,” Hurst says. “Many times you could not draw a line between the Klan and law enforcement, because law enforcement was at least accomplices to a lot of the things the Klan did.”