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Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr. Papers

Identifier:  2018.001

Content Description

The collection consists of papers and memorabilia related to civil rights history in Jacksonville and Hurst’s experiences as a member of the NAACP Youth Council in the 1960’s. The collection focuses on the NAACP sit-ins of stores in James Weldon Johnson Park, formerly known as Hemming Park or Plaza, and Hurst’s book about Ax Handle Saturday.


  • 1957 - 2015
  • Majority of material found in 1960 - 1960
  • Majority of material found in 2008 - 2008

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research by appointment only. Please contact to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in the collection may be subject to copyright and are to be used for private study, scholarship, or research in accordance with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Use of reproductions of copyrighted works in excess of " fair use," may result in the user’s liability for copyright infringement and be subject to the civil and criminal penalties of federal law. Visit the United States Copyright Office's website at for further information

Biographical / Historical

Rodney L. Hurst Sr., a long time Jacksonville resident, Civil Rights activist and author was born in 1944. After transferring to Isaiah Blocker Junior High School in 1955, at age eleven, his history teacher Rutledge Henry Pearson encouraged him to join the local NAACP Youth Council. By the time he was fifteen, Mr. Hurst was named president of the youth council chapter.

In 1960, Hurst led the lunch counter sit in demonstrations in downtown Jacksonville’s shopping districts. The first one began on August 13, 1960. They targeted the Woolworth’s counter. In addition, demonstrations were held at Cohen Bros, WT Grant Department Store, Kness Department Store, and McCrory Department Store. In response, the stores closed their lunch counters and thus fueled the tensions that coalesced on August 27 also known as Ax Handle Saturday when 200 segregationists, armed with ax handles and baseball bats attacked 35 members of the NAACP youth council and other Black Americans who happened to be in the area. Eventually, the police closed off downtown and the sit ins ceased. Then on December 8, 1960, Rodney Hurst was arrested for his part in the demonstrations and charged with instigating a riot. The charges were dropped after his hearing and was released. By May 16, 1961, all lunch counters in Jacksonville were integrated due to Mr. Hurst and the Youth Council’s efforts. In subsequent years, Mr. Hurst sat on the Jacksonville Civil Council and represented District 8 from 1975-1979 and District 10 from 1979-1983. Later in 2008, he authored a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences called “It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke!” The book garnered recognition at the Sabrina Awards Best Non Fiction and Top Three Pick On July 31st that same year.

In addition, Mr. Hurst received awards for his participation in the 2009 Writer’s Digest 16th Annual Self-Published Book awards, the ENAABLE and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida Black History Month Celebration. Due to his efforts in civil rights history, the Durkeeville Historical Society awarded Mr. Hurst a certificate of appreciation.

In 2010, Mr. Hurst participated in the University of Central Florida Book Festival and in 2012, he taught a course about Ax Handle Saturday and the Jacksonville sit ins at the University of North Florida.

Recently, in 2018, the Jacksonville Task Force on Civil Rights History was created. Mr. Hurst served as the co chair of the taskforce’s historical timeline subcommittee and created a chronology of civil rights history in Jacksonville from 1838 with the founding of Bethel Baptist Institutional Church to the present.


5 Linear Feet (2 legal sized archives document boxes, 1 oversized flat box, 3 medium sized flat boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was dontated to the University of North Florida Thomas G. Carpenter Library Special Collections by Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr. in 2018.

Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr. Papers
Tammy Druash, Susan Swiatosz, and Jennifer Bibb
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the UNF Library Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1 UNF Drive
Jacksonville FL 32224 US