Looking back at Jacksonville's Race Riots | News

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Looking back at Jacksonville's Race Riots

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- East Jacksonville has been the epicenter of two major events, first there was Hurricane Dora in 1964 and then the race riots in the later years.

A July 1971 edition of JET magazine asked, "What really caused the racial explosion in Jacksonville?" and pointed to several racial conflicts.

"It was like chaos," said Bruce Moye.

Moye, 53, grew up in the East Jacksonville community and remembers the riots. He said he was only 7-years-old.

"People were looting," he said. "I didn't know any better so I grabbed stuff and ran too."

He remembers the number of businesses that lined Florida Avenue from First Street to Bay Street; most of them are not longer there.

"All were not on fire," he said, "but all of them were tore up."

In fact the losses to the damage was placed at $440,000.

Artis Gilmore was in college at Jacksonville University; a star player on the basketball team.

"The tensions were there but we continued to play sports," said Gilmore.

JU was playing for a championship and in its own way became a soothing calm to a racially charged community.

"Once we had that success," said Gilmore. "We came back to a community that was together."

Florida Avenue is now A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. Pastor Harry Williams recently moved back to East Jacksonville from Atlanta and started a church on A. Philip Randolph.

"My parents always made us aware of what this neighborhood was about," said Williams.

Williams said he is too young to remember the riots, but as an adult he sees the potential for his East Jacksonville community.

"It is not where we want it to be but it is getting there," said Williams. "It will be grand again."

Janet Owens, executive director of LISC said there is a quality of life plan in progress for East Jacksonville and Historic Springfield.

LISC, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, works with private investors and community pardners to reach their goals.

"There are already things taking place," said Owens," we should see more being done in 2015."

East Jacksonville is not what it was four decades ago; unemployment is high and median income is at poverty level. But there is a growing community pride and a focused effort to make it grand again.


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