Black History Fun Fact Friday – Beyond Selma: The Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville, Florida by KE Garland

When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.

I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.

A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.

That sign is actually a historic site marker commemorating an important civil rights event in Jacksonville called, Ax Handle Saturday.

I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.

KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened? 

RH: I was president of the Youth Council NAACP and I led the sit-ins at the ripe old age of sixteen. My mentor was a guy named Rutledge Pearson.

KG: A school is named after him?

RH: Yes. One school is named after him. In fact, he and Earl Johnson were inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame earlier this month (2016) in Tallahassee. He taught me eighth-grade American history. When I went to his class, he told me about the textbook and had other class members to talk about the textbook and then he said leave it home.

Mr. Pearson would not teach American history from the slanted and racist viewpoint of white textbook authors and historians. Our study of American history did not revolve around a book that only had the names of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. We studied John Hope Franklin, Althea Gibson, and Thurgood Marshall.

The first book report I did was on a guy named Toussaint Louverture, who fast became one of my favorites. He led the only successful slave revolt in this hemisphere, eventually became the Father of Haiti, and because of what he was able to do in Central America in fighting Napoleon, and controlling the shipping routes, Napoleon had to sell Louisiana territory to this country. You will never read his name in an American history book and he is inextricably bound to the history of this country.

In Mr. Pearson’s history class, it was Black history every day in his class. He also said, freedom is not free; if you’re not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. He encouraged us to join the Youth Council of NAACP. American history teacher in an eighth-grade class encouraging his students to join the Youth Council NAACP?

KG: You would get fired today doing that. 

RH: Sure. And I joined when I was age 11, became president when I was 15, and led the sit-ins when I was 16. The sit-ins in Jacksonville were led by high-school students, which is one of the reasons we did it during the summer, as opposed to college students who were able to do it year-round.

We sat in Woolworth’s, where the federal courthouse is now. We sat in at the lunch counters: Kress, Woolworths, Grants, and McCory’s, which were downtown stores. And every downtown department store had a white lunch counter. Some had colored lunch counters, like Woolworths, which was at the back of the store. Others didn’t have colored lunch counters, but you would go to the end of the white lunch counter to order.

KG: But you couldn’t sit down?

RH: You couldn’t sit down. If the waitresses would come and take your order, then okay. So, we said, “No!” During my senior year we sat in. We sat in for two weeks. Woolworths closed the lunch counter. There were whites who stood behind us yelling, jungle bunny, nigger, go back to Africa ‘cause they couldn’t get their fresh lunches.

Two weeks later on August 27th, we were sitting in at Grants, which was on the corner of Adams and Main Street. And there were other incidents leading up to that. We had a white student, Parker, who joined us from Florida State (University) and the whites who were behind us thought he was the leader. Some white construction workers were standing behind him with big construction tools and these guys picked him up and formed a circle around him and walked him out to safety. All this time there were no police in downtown Jacksonville.

One guy had whittled off the end of his walking cane and would walk behind each of us and stuck all of us in the back with his walking cane. Again, no police. When we were attacked, we were attacked by 200 white men with ax handles and baseball bats. Black downtown was attacked. If you were white and tried to protect those Blacks downtown, you were attacked, too. When the word finally got out, then police came from everywhere.

Mr. Hurst described what happened to Parker, the white FSU student who supported the sit-ins and also Leander Shaw, Florida Supreme Court judge’s role in enacting justice. The details are outlined in his historical memoir It Was Never about a Hot Dog and a Coke! 

But I want to stop here and emphasize a few points about meeting and talking with Mr. Hurst.

Understanding Black history in your city is important. I’m not from Jacksonville, but I’ve lived here for approximately 20 years. Prior to our happenstance meeting, I’d never heard of Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Subsequently, before our conversation, I was ignorant to the role Jacksonville played in the Movement. I’d heard of Rutledge Pearson Elementary School, but I didn’t know the significance of the person for whom it was named. I wonder if the 95% Black student population knows the rich history to which they’re connected?

Living history is important. Ax Handle Saturday occurred August 27, 1960. That’s 60 years ago. Mr. Hurst is old enough to be my father, not my grandfather or great-grandfather, my father. Sometimes, grainy documentaries make racial oppression seem as if it was eons ago. My conversation with Mr. Hurst reminded me that it was not. Luckily for the K-12 and college students he speaks to, he’s able to authenticate a perspective of a time period that is linked to our country’s history.

Teacher autonomy is important. As a former high-school English teacher, I have to highlight the autonomy teachers had in the 60s. Mr. Hurst’s history teacher was able to make an informed decision about his students and what resources they needed in order to be successful, in not only understanding history in America, but also in transforming their communities. Mr. Hurst was directly influenced by Rutledge’s off-script lessons and push to join an organization specifically with their best interests at heart. Hurst possibly would have never been a part of Ax Handle Saturday had Rutledge stuck to a scripted curriculum.

The takeaways from our interview are endless. But if nothing else, I hope these words inspire you to learn more about the influential Black people in your area because, after all, Black history is American history.


Dr. KE Garland
Katherin is a First Place Royal Palms Literary Award winning writer for Creative Nonfiction. Her work has been featured in the South Florida TimesTalking Soup and For Harriet. She typically writes in order to inspire social change. Other examples of her work can be found on her personal blog.
 
Website: kegarland.com
Instagram: kegarland
Twitter: @kegarland

Why I Write Black Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction (specifically Black Historical Fiction) is my favorite genre to read and to write. I have to specify “Black” because I am not a fan of all Historical Fiction. My interest lies specifically in fiction stories that explore black history in some way.

Historical Fiction is the past recreated around the stories of people who seem real to us, including actual historical figures at times.

As we witness how fictional characters we care about interact with our ancestors and navigate a world now gone from us, it allows us to experience the past vicariously. Through the stories of the characters we can “visit” history and get a feel for what it was like to live in that time. But why is this important? I think a quote from the Toni Morrison Documentary “The Pieces of Me” (Hulu) sums it up:

“You imagine the past because the past has been ruptured. The record of the past of your people has been degraded. It’s been burned up, it’s been taken away.”

Tbt. The Historic Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN

Not only has the black past been degraded but also entirely and tragically whitewashed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a good example of someone whose humanness has been reduced to the one “Negro” who bridged the gap between blacks and whites. A Civil Rights hero who succeeded in making blacks docile enough to accept that merging with white people was the best version of themselves possible. That, if we integrated, we were better people than if we had our own communities and businesses, and could determine the direction of our own destinies. Not that segregation was wrong, but that integration was better. That blacks were better when mixed with something else; that we could not be the midwives of our own selves. 

Although King was known as a civil rights leader and Malcolm X as a “black radical” both men were advocates of oppressed people. King told black people their blackness was beautiful, believed in economic freedom and establishing black businesses, preached on black power, and even owned a gun. King was just as “radical” as he was patient…but this isn’t the version of King we are given.

White America adopted Dr. King and used him as the black friend that is used by some to say, “Hey, I can’t possibly be racist because I have a black friend.” King is that friend. Sadly, we have someone whose name is widely known, but who, as a person, is not very well understood.

Forget about the Civil Rights icon, who was Dr. King as a man? Who was Malcolm X as a man? What could we imagine their persona’s to be like? Those of us born after they lived do not know but we can imagine.

What I do as a writer is to take the part of history not taught in schools, and use it as a tool to invent people who could have lived in a world that did exist. To then take these people and let them show us the truth about that time and place. To give these people real feelings and a voice that is authentic to what they could have said or what they could have done. I love to go back to a time before I was born and, through research and creativity, imagine what it would have been like to live in that era.


Stella Returns!

Book One Re-releases on March 24, 2020

About Book One:

Cynthia McNair and her boyfriend, Alex, express some racist feelings toward blacks. The visit Cynthia’s grandmother Sidney McNair, who recounts the story of her ancestor, an enslaved woman named Stella Mae. Cynthia has no idea of her African ancestry or how deep this rabbit hole goes. Will she accept the truth about herself?


There are only TWO days left of the $200 Amazon Giveaway! You can enter as many times as you like! Go, go, go! Link below:

$200 Reader Giveaway

Revising The Stella Trilogy: A Behind the Scenes Look

Tomorrow will mark five years since I released the first book in The Stella Trilogy. Wowzers! I am celebrating by introducing the new cover to book one and two. If you haven’t heard, I removed the books from amazon for some much needed polish and am re-publishing them. To learn why check out the blog post “Quality Over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon.”

While I changed the cover to I am Soul after its release and got a new cover to The Aftermath, my first novel (2012), I’ve never wholly revised my backlist before. The Stella Trilogy is getting an entirely new makeover, which includes editing, covers, formatting, and ISBNs. Why go through all the work for an old book?

Books do not expire. Every book is new to people who have never read it which is why it benefits Indie Authors to go back and update “older” works every now and again. Here are some things I saw needed work on Stella:

Editing – It wasn’t enough to slap a new cover on the books. I knew these books had to be revamped altogether. Like most newbie Indie Authors, I had a friend to edit the first version of these books because I didn’t have the money to pay someone. This time around, I am getting the books professionally edited.

Song Lyrics – The first book had song lyrics in it—rookie mistake. You need permission to include the words to a song in your books. I promptly removed those lyrics. I can’t afford to get sued.

DIY Covers – I like the cover to book one, but it was a DIY premade from Derek Murphy’s website, offered freely to authors. I added the image of the black woman, but the rest was unoriginal. I cringed every time I saw it on his site. Book two was more original as I purchased the winter lady image, but it was still poorly applied to the cover. I did everything in Microsoft Word, and since I didn’t know that super-thin books don’t need a spine (if there aren’t enough pages to warrant one) when the books printed the spine folded over to the front. Yuck. For this reason, new covers were something I knew I needed to get done.

Free ISBN – I am done with the free ISBN game. Listen, if you don’t include the cost of the ISBN in your book budget, you are still a beginner. Have I always purchased my own ISBN? No. ISBNs are expensive, but having your own is worth it. They (ISBNs) are also cheaper if you buy them in bulk. 10 ISBNs can cover ten different books. Applying your own ISBN number to the book ensures that your imprint name will be applied to the book. In other words, you are the publisher, not KDP, and not Lulu. This time around, all books in The Stella Trilogy will have its own ISBN so I can register the books to me.

BONUS: Alternate Ending – I am excited about adding an alternate ending to excite Stella fans who have already read the books. The conclusion to book one is not the ending of the original book one. Why the change? It is to tighten the link between all the stories for a smooth transition from one book to the next.

Lessons I learned so far:

Work with what you have until you can do better.

You don’t have to know everything to start. I didn’t. Work with what you have until you can do better. (If a free ISBN is all you have to work with right now, use it until you are able to move up. I did.) I do not regret putting Stella or my first books out there, even though they weren’t properly edited, and the covers were DIY. These books gave me my start, and the courage and the freedom to step out on my own. These books gave me my beginning, and I am forever thankful to Yah for them.

Then, when you can do better, please do it. 

The other part of this, though, is doing better once I knew better. If I produce mediocrity, I will only get mediocre results. Once you’ve stepped out there, it is okay to go back and change what you see needs work. We may not be perfect, but this doesn’t mean we cannot strive to maintain a level of excellence in all we do, even if the best we can do still falls short. We don’t have to stay at the same levels in the latter part of the journey as the first. We can tweak and correct and improve with time. We have that freedom, to sharpen, and to elevate.


About The Stella Trilogy

Readers reading Stella. Circa, 2015.

Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. We discover how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood. The three-part series features elements of enslavement, Jim Crow, Passing, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Win $200 in Amazon Cash: From The 2019 Kindle Book Award Winners

Attention Readers!!!

I am so excited to collaborate with the winners of the 2019 Kindle Book Awards to award one of you a $200 cash prize, sponsored by Amazon. Please read on for instructions on how to enter. We can all use an extra $200!

For a chance to win a $200 Amazon eGift Card from The 2019 Kindle Book Award Winners, click the link and enter (every day if you want). It’s easy & fun. If you love #reading, you’re going to LOVE these BOOKS. Enter now; giveaway ends Feb. 29, 2020. Click here for details ~>  http://ow.ly/VlqT50ylWG6

WHAT: $200 Reader Giveaway
WHEN: Feb.15-29, 2020

Again, here’s the link!!

https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/200-reader-giveaway/

The fun kicks off on

February 15, 2020 

(The link won’t work until 2/15. I am posting it now because I won’t be available to post it then.)

The Effort Will Release It’s Reward (If You Do Not Give Up)

Copyright 2018 | Emily Rose Photography

I published my first book in 2008 and the first book I ever sold in 2010. But it wasn’t until 2015 that I learned to define what my author’s voice was, to establish an author platform, to reach people, and to truly understand what it meant to be an Independent Author. In the beginning, my books were poorly edited and formatted. I didn’t know anything about Amazon, reviews, buying my own ISBNs, imprints, nothing. (I wasn’t even on Social Media, so I couldn’t take advantage of this free platform).

I was green, inexperienced, and made no money. It took me five years (2010-2015) of publishing poor quality books to learn, and even now, I am still learning how to publish books the right way. Whatever fruits I reap now are the result of years of work, study, research, and doing it wrong repeatedly until I understood that practice only makes perfect if I am doing it right. It took me years to realize that publishing book after book (the wrong way) was doing nothing for my growth until I was ready to put in real work. It took me years to learn that this was a marathon and not a sprint. My point? It took me years to get here.

Dear Future Author, why do you want to publish a book? 

This question seems simple, but the answer is a lot deeper. The answer will require you to first define who you are, who you are writing for, and why what you are writing is important to those people. Are you writing to make a difference in the world? To educate, empower, lift, heal, and inform? Or do you just like the idea of being a published author?

One means chasing the “prestige” that comes with publishing books.

The other means putting in real work even when sales are low when you want to give up, and when no one is clapping, liking, or supporting you.

One means wanting to appear glamorous for the gram…

…and the other means doing the work in private, not just in public.

IF you are willing to do this and IF your intentions are genuine, then the effort will release its reward as long as you do not give up. 

Lit Mag 2020 Is On the Way

The 2020 Lit Mag Literary Magazine for Poets is on its way out! We are proud to feature last year’s Grand Prize Winner Chanelle Barnes on the cover. Volume 2, Edition 2, is scheduled to print Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

This year’s magazine features the winners of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contest 2019”: Chanelle Barnes, BuddahDesmond, Jahkazia (Jah-kay-asia) Richardson (our 2018 Champion), Kiyana Blount, and Dondi A Springer. The mag also features the poems of select poets who participated last year.

How can you be featured in the Lit Mag Magazine? Be sure to participate in my annual poetry contests! Rules and guidelines for the 2020 competition to be announced.

Be sure to support this contest by picking up your copy of LitMag 2019 by clicking on the link below. Your contribution helps us to keep this contest going by keeping the entry fee-free or low-cost for participants, allows us to print the magazine featuring the winners, and of course, offers some dope prizes to contestants! Link below:

Get LitMag 2019 Here

Visit our 2017 Winners Here

Visit our 2018 Winners Here

Visit our 2019 Winners Here

What Are You Sacrificing?

Last week, I planned on introducing a new Black History Fun Fact Friday. I also planned on revealing the cover to the poetry contest magazine to my social media (which I will do tomorrow, time permitting). This was a busy week for me (more than usual). This isn’t to say that “busy” is a measure of importance, but last week was a hectic one for both my personal and professional life. But also, it was a good busy (more like a focused busy). I got a lot done and gained some clarity. And although I still have emails, I haven’t responded to and travel to prepare for I am sitting down in the few hours I have here before running errands to talk to you guys and send an important message to my email list.

I find that how we direct our focus determines what will show up based on how we have prioritized. Those things we put first or last will naturally manifest in our life and align based on what we give more or less attention. If I know I have coursework due on Wednesday, for example, but I scroll social media until the final hour of when the work is due, chances are I won’t do well, and it won’t be because I am ignorant or incompetent. It will be because I did not set my coursework as a priority this week and give myself time to think through the assignment. Instead, I scrolled social media, which means I have set it as a priority over my coursework and are thus reaping the consequences of that choice. It doesn’t make it social media’s fault, and it doesn’t make social media an evil entity, but it was not the proper decision on this day.

I use social media because it’s an easy example, but I believe this can apply to anything from business practices to relationships and friendships.

What are you sacrificing?

I realized that whatever we pay attention to means sacrificing something else in its place. If we focus too much time on gossip and negativity, we are sacrificing something else in its place. If we spend too much time on social media, we are sacrificing something else in its place. Sometimes the sacrifice is not all bad; it makes sense depending on what is a priority at the moment. Sacrificing an hour of work to sleep and refresh is not a bad thing because, with rest, we can have better clarity to do the job. Surrendering a TV show to post something of value and substance to social media that will help someone else is not a bad thing. You see, I also learned this week that our priorities might change from day to day. What was most crucial yesterday may not be most important today.

From this point forward, I will be more conscious of what I am sacrificing when I am spending my time doing something because I know that whatever I focus my attention will manifest based on those things of which I have set as a priority.

Instead of saying, “I don’t have time,” I will say, “what am I willing to sacrifice to get this done? What am I willing to give up to do this?”

Those are the real questions.