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, a military veteran, and the award-winning author of three books.
His first book, "It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!" is a personal account of the 1960 sit-in demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida, and Ax Handle Saturday. It recounts the segregated civic, political, and educational climate of Jacksonville, Florida, in the 1950s and the 1960s, the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP sit-ins, and the violent event, 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 won over 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 Nonfiction.
"Unless WE Tell It…It Never Gets Told!" is Hurst's second book. It related stories about Jacksonville's Black History and Civil Rights History. It was one of five finalists for the Multicultural Nonfiction Award by the National Best Books Awards national book competition. It was also honored with the 2017 City of Jacksonville's Historic Preservation Commission Award.
His third 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 as seen through Mr. Hurst's and Dr. Jamison's eyes. The book review site, Readers View, awarded the book the 2021 Nonfiction "Book of the Year" and the 2021 Grand Prize Winner in its national book competition.
Hurst is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, and a 1960 high school graduate of segregated Northwestern Junior-Senior High School in Jacksonville. He attended Edward Waters College, now University. He was the sixteen-year-old President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and was one of the leaders of the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP Sit-in demonstrations.
The documentary Ax Handle Saturday: 50 Years Later is based on his book. Hurst's leadership as a teenager during the Civil Rights Movement 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.
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 many "firsts" in the Jacksonville Community. Hurst was one of the thirteen original national recipients of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Television Fellowships and was also the first Black to co-host a television in Jacksonville on PBS Channel WJCT. He was the first Black male hired at the Prudential South Central Home Office in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, Hurst was the first Black to serve as the Executive Director of the State of Florida's Construction Industry Licensing Board.
Hurst is a Silver Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He is also a subscribing Life Member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) as a member of the James Weldon Johnson Branch in Jacksonville, Florida. Hurst also organized and coordinated Jacksonville's first Civil Rights Conference (August 25-27, 2022.)
He is involved with many Boards and Agencies in the Jacksonville Community and is a United States Air Force veteran.
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. He 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, Hurst was the keynote speaker at the Induction Ceremony of Harriette and Harry T. Moore in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Hurst nominated his mentor, civil rights icon and NAACP Pioneer Rutledge H. Pearson, and 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 into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame in June 2017. Unfortunately, Dr. Girardeau died four months later. Hurst is also the Historian of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.
Hurst is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Visionary Award given by the National Alumni Association of Bethune-Cookman University; the Outstanding Alumnus Award by the National Alumni Association of Edward Waters College; The Clanzel T. Brown Award, presented by the Jacksonville Urban League; The Stetson Kennedy Foundation "Fellow Man and Mother Earth" Award; the President's Award by the President of the Jacksonville Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Jacksonville, Florida One Jax Silver Medallion Humanitarian Award, the Jacksonville Bar Association "Liberty Bell" Award and the Study of African American Life and History's (ASALH) "Living Legacy" Award. Two public art murals in Jacksonville bear his images.
Hurst is a widower. His late wife Ann passed on September 5, 2016, three months before their Fiftieth Anniversary on December 10, 2016.
Hurst is the father of two sons, Rodney II (Vandlyn) and Todd, and is the grandfather of Marquiette (Mar-Kita) and Jasmine, Rodney II's daughters. 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 lives and works. He worships at First Baptist Church of Oakland 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, we are 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 X'er 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. is currently the director of the City of Jacksonville's Human Rights Commission. He formerly worked 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." He is the co-author of the award-winning book, "Never Forget Who You Are." 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.
Rodney L. Hurst's fourth book, "Black and Brilliant" tells the story of Hurst dealing with bigotry, segregation and racism as a pre-teen and a teen-ager. It recalls portions of Hurst's first book, the award-winning "It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!" when Hurst was the President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and led the sit-in demonstrations at age 16 in 1960; which culminated in the infamous and violent Ax Handle Saturday.
Because of the "white-out" (Hurst's reference) by Jacksonville's white press, and because he witnessed these events firsthand as the President of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP and as a leader of the sit-ins, "It was never about a hot dog and a Coke!" is the only accurate description of the 1960 sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday in segregated and racist Jacksonville, circa 1960.
Hurst wrote Black and Brilliant, primarily for Young Adults ages 12-18, and looks at those days of Black History, civil rights history, the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP, and Ax Handle Saturday through his eyes then as a preteen and a teenager learning about bigotry, discrimination, and racism.
As Hurst writes:
“Yes, racism looks like hate, and it is hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. Disrespect is another. And so on. No one is born racist, yet it remains a robust system that white folks are immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over."
Hurst's books are available through Amazon.com. "Never Forget Who You Are" is available at the web site, canonpressgroup.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.