In honor of Black History Month, here are ten facts about Jacksonville's African-American history that you might not be aware of.
1. 1969 Eastside Riot Destroys "The Avenue."
During its heyday, A. Philip Randolph Boulevard (formerly Florida Avenue) as known as "the Avenue." In the height of Jim Crow-era Jacksonville, the Avenue was a center of commerce for the Eastside's black community. t was the place to see and be seen. Things would change in a 1969 event involving a white cigarette salesman and a bullet in a black man's leg.
During the 1960s, two major events negatively impacted businesses along the roadway: Hurricane Dora in 1964, and the Race Riot of November 1969. Hurricane Dora was a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mile per hour winds that eventually caused $1.5 billion worth of damage to the City. A. Philip Randolph Boulevard suffered damage to buildings, as well as looting of businesses.
The Race Riot of 1969 was sparked by a shooting of an African-American man, Buck Riley by a white truck driver on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. Buck Riley intended to rob the delivery truck driver when the driver was handed a gun by the storeowner and began shooting. The thief ran into a group of school children and the truck driver shot into the crowd.
The neighborhood, and people from across the city, fought back. They flipped the salesman's truck, threw rocks through windows and set buildings ablaze.
Charges were eventually dropped against the delivery truck driver and Buck Riley, but the damage was done.
Businesses rebuilt over time. Just not on the Avenue.