JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A mob of white men wielding ax handles charges toward a crowd of Black people in Downtown Jacksonville. Then, the beatings begin.
That's the scene depicted in a newly unearthed video that emerged 61 years after Ax Handle Saturday, a tragic day in Jacksonville history that took place on Aug. 27, 1960.
The video, acquired by the Jacksonville Historical Society courtesy of the CBS Archives and published on YouTube just one day before the 61st anniversary of the day a nonviolent racial protest turned bloody, sheds new insight on a day that was sparsely documented.
An overhead shot from the new footage shows a Black man being battered by several whites as he tries to fight them off in what was then Hemming Park before police intervene. The park was renamed James Weldon Johnson Park last August.
The events of the day began with a Jacksonville NAACP Youth Council sit-in protesting racial segregation at a whites-only diner counter until they were spat on by attackers. According to the Florida Historical Society, things escalated as a group of 200 white people chased the demonstrators through the streets of Downtown Jacksonville, beating them with ax handles and baseball bats.
Though the attack was originally aimed at the protestors, it grew to include any Black person in sight. Police stood by until members of a Black street gang called the Boomerangs tried to help the victims, at which point some police officers joined in on the beatings, according to FHS.
The victims were able to find sanctuary at a nearby church until the mob dissipated.
Many of the components of the attack are portrayed in a mural on the Eastside, which anti-generational poverty organization Lift Jax highlights in a thread on its Twitter page.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also tweeted his reflection on the events of Ax Handle Saturday, saying "This is a day to remember our past and resolve to create a better, more perfect future for Jacksonville together."