Photo Credit: Ingrid Damiani
RODNEY L. HURST, Sr.
Civil Rights Activist | Black Historian | Author
Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr., is a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a widower, a cancer survivor, a civil rights activist, a Black historian, an NAACP Life Member, an author, and a United States Air Force veteran. He is the award-winning author of three books, It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®! A personal account of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida, and Ax Handle Saturday; Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told!; and Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations about Racism and Identity Development, which he co-authored with Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr.
Hurst, a native of Jacksonville and a 1960 high school graduate of segregated Northwestern Junior-Senior High School in Jacksonville, was the sixteen-year-old President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and was one of the leaders of the 1960 Youth Council sit-in demonstrations.
His first book, "It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!" recounts with clarity the segregated civic, the segregated political, and the segregated educational climate of Jacksonville Florida in the 1950s and the 1960s, and the 1960 Jacksonville sit-ins and the violent, Ax Handle Saturday. Due to the black-out of local news about these important civil rights events in Jacksonville, his book is the only historically accurate description of those sit-ins and the violence of Ax Handle Saturday. It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®! received more than a dozen awards, including the 2008 USA National Best Books Awards national book competition First Place Gold Medal Award for Multicultural Nonfiction and the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal for Non-Fiction.
His second book Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told! published in January 2016 relates stories of notable Blacks of Jacksonville who impacted this city and the country, relates stories of Jacksonville Civil Rights History and relates stories of the historical fight against Racism. It was recently honored as one of five finalists for the 2016 Multicultural Non-Fiction Award by the National Best Books Awards national book competition and the 2017 City of Jacksonville's Historical Preservation Commission Award.
In addition, the documentary "Ax Handle Saturday: 50 Years Later" is based on his book. As a teenager during the Civil Rights Movement, Hurst's leadership is also the subject of a chapter in the Scholastic book, Ten True Tales: Young Civil Rights Heroes written for Third Graders to Seventh Graders and ages 8 to 12.
His most recent book, Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations about Racism and Identity Development, which he co-authored with Dr. Rudy F. Jamison Jr., discusses Racism and identity development through his eyes and Dr. Jamison's eyes. It is the national web site and book reviewer Readers View's 2021 Nonfiction "Book of the Year" and its 2021 Grand Prize Winner.
In addition to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Hurst served two four-year terms on the Jacksonville City Council. He is responsible for a number of "firsts" in the Jacksonville Community: he was one of the thirteen original national recipients of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Television Fellowships; he was the first Black to co-host a television talk show in Jacksonville on PBS Channel WJCT; the first Black male hired at the Prudential South Central Home Office in Jacksonville, Florida; and the first Black to serve as the Executive Director of the State of Florida's Construction Industry Licensing Board. A Silver Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Hurst is involved with several Boards and Agencies in the Jacksonville Community.
Hurst served on the Jacksonville Civil Rights Task Force and chaired the Sub-Committee on the Civil Rights timeline for Jacksonville, which the Jacksonville City Council codified. Hurst speaks extensively on Civil Rights, Black History, and Racism. He was the featured speaker for the City of Jacksonville's 23rd Annual Martin Luther King Breakfast; the Nassau County Annual Martin Luther King Breakfast; the Brevard County NAACP Branch Freedom Fund Dinner; and the City of Deltona's Black History Luncheon. In addition, he was the keynote speaker at the Induction Ceremony of Harriette and Harry T. Moore into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Hurst nominated his mentor and civil rights icon Rutledge H. Pearson, his longtime friend, and civil rights icon Dr. Arnett Girardeau to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Pearson was inducted posthumously in 2016 and Dr. Girardeau in June 2017—four months before his passing. In addition, Hurst serves as an adviser to the Center for Urban Education and Policy at the University of North Florida.
Hurst is the recipient of numerous awards, including the President's Award and the Willye F. Dennis Award by the Jacksonville Branch NAACP; the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Visionary Award given by the National Alumni Association of Bethune-Cookman University; The Clanzel T. Brown Award, presented by the Jacksonville Urban League; the Outstanding Alumnus Award by the National Alumni Association of Edward Waters College; and the Jacksonville, Florida OneJax Silver Medallion Humanitarian Award.
Hurst and his late wife Ann (June 24, 1945-September 5, 2016) would have celebrated their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary on December 10, 2016.
Hurst has two sons, Rodney II (Vandlyn) and Todd. Rodney II is the father of two daughters, Marquiette (Mar-Kita) and Jasmine. Hurst's eldest granddaughter Marquiette and her husband Kyle are the parents of Everly Ann, Hurst's first great-grand. His youngest granddaughter Jasmine is a graduate of the Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York, where she works and lives. He worships at First Baptist Church of Oakland, in Jacksonville, and The Bethel Church, also in Jacksonville.
Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations About Racism and Identity Development" co-authored by University of North Florida professor Dr. Rudy F. Jamison, and Civil Rights activist and Black History advocate Rodney L. Hurst, is the Gold Medal Winner in the Reader Views Non-Fiction "Humanities" category, and the Reader Views “Grand Prize Winner” as the Best Non-Fiction book (readersview.com).
In Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations About
Racism and Identity Development, Dr. Rudolph “Rudy” Jamison Jr. and I offer you two options, and they are both, I think, beneficially good. You will read two philosophies and two lived experiences in each chapter about blackness, racism, respect, and pride: one from Rudy’s 50-year-old mind and eyes and the other from my 75- year-old mind and eyes. Both viewpoints will get you to the same place.
You can fight the struggle against racism and for human dignity, respect, and identity development and you can travel different paths to get to the same destination and not compromise your journey or your dignity, which is why we are asking you to join us on this reading excursion.
There is a saying, When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. White America and its innate White privilege feel to share anything, and in this instance, weare talking about citizenship, is to give up what they have.
Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations About Racism and Identity Development is a cross-generational conversation between a baby boomer and a Generation Xer that wrestles with what it means to be Black in America. In an attempt to inspire increased attention to sustained racist ideas, Rodney and I present historical contexts, preserved social orders, personal anecdotes, and possible solutions to race relations in America. Because America has created a caste system that categorizes humanity based on power and pigmentation, and it refuses to address the severity of racism as an indelible issue, racism and identity development are structural and institutional impediments for Black folk. To be Black in America, and to not camouflage your blackness behind a veil of concession, is to perpetually resist the psychological contortion expected by a dominant White culture.
The degree to which Blacks must deny who they are in White spaces may not be an issue for the dominant power structure, but if you’re unapologetically Black, you know the struggle is real. From education, to politics, to the world of work, to cultural socialization, Rodney and I engage in a back and forth that must happen more frequently.
Rodney Lawrence Hurst, Sr. is a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a civil rights activist, a Black historian, a cancer survivor, and the author of three award-winning books: It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®! A personal account of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday; Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told! and now, Never Forget Who You Are: Conversations about Racism and Identity Development. He speaks
Dr. Rudy F. Jamison, Jr. currently works as faculty and Assistant Director of the Center for Urban Education and Policy in University of North Florida’s College of Education and Human Services. Dr. Jamison’s academic interests include: Black leadership development, community organizing, diversification of teacher education, culturally responsive teaching/leadership, career mobility, developmental relationships, self-monitoring, and nigrescence. Dr. Jamison is committed to advancing consciousness around equity, racism, and social justice in ways that assess, challenge, and support a more virtuous humanity.
Books are available at canonpressgroup.com, Amazon.com, and Apple.com.
It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke®! (Jan 1, 2008)
Rodney L. Hurst recounts with clarity the segregated civic, political, and educational climate of Jacksonville, Florida in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. "It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke®" recalls the 1960 Jacksonville sit-in demonstrations through the eyes the President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, a then sixteen-year-old Hurst. Chronicled in this award-winning book is detailed history of the bloody events that transpired on August 27, 1960, a day that the press labeled Ax Handle Saturday. On that day, 200 Whites with ax handles and baseball bats attacked members of the Council who peacefully demonstrating at white-only lunch counters in downtown Jacksonville. The attacks didn't stop there, they brutally beat any Black that could be found on the streets that afternoon. This historical account covers why they demonstrated and the aftermath that followed that fateful day.
Unless WE Tell It... It Never Gets Told! (Dec 8, 2015)
History, as it is usually told, ignores those Blacks who fought for equality and justice against great odds while also fighting against the racism of America. In his second book, Hurst tells the stories of some of Jacksonville’s notable Blacks, those who not only impacted the city but also the country at large. A contemporary book of America’s Black History, Hurst shares historical accounts of Floridians who played important roles in America’s Civil Rights History and those who were, and continue to be, essential components of Black America’s historic fight against Racism.
In the award-winning "Unless WE Tell It... It Never Gets Told!," Hurst discusses the racist forces in America who would like to revise American history. But Hurst refuses to “pretty up” the abhorrent practices of slavery or to allow the South’s participation in the misnamed Civil War to be romanticized. He does not ignore the impact of Jim Crow laws, nor does he conceal the obscenely violent acts perpetrated against the Civil Rights Movement. It is easy to think that relations have gotten better and that things have changed when you are not feeling the brunt of racism. But, that is far from the case, and explored within this book is the fact that there are those in this country who have an apparent penchant to return to a past that absolves racist attitudes.