Trump's GOP convention speech to take place on the 60th anniversary of a KKK attack on Black activists called 'Ax Handle Saturday'

Trump's GOP convention speech to take place on the 60th anniversary of a KKK attack on Black activists called 'Ax Handle Saturday'
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016.Carolyn Kaster/AP
  • President Donald Trump's GOP convention speech, now set to be held in Jacksonville, will occur on the 60th anniversary of a KKK attack on Black activists in the Florida city.
  • Residents of the city, including a man who was among those attacked, have expressed disgust that Trump's speech will coincide with an event meant to commemorate the brutal incident.
  • This news came a day after Trump announced plans to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a race massacre in 1921.
  • The rally is set to occur on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the US.

President Donald Trump's Republican convention speech is set to take place in Jacksonville in August on the 60th anniversary of a brutal Ku Klux Klan attack on Black activists in the Florida city known as "Ax Handle Saturday," the New York Times reported on Thursday.

On August 27, 1960, hundreds of white people attacked a predominately Black group of activists sitting at whites-only lunch counters in Jacksonville. The mob, organized by the KKK, included some police officers.

There were already plans and a permit issued for the 60th commemoration of the attack when the Republican National Committee (RNC) earlier this week tentatively said that Trump's speech would be moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the Florida city, the Washington Post reported.

All of the events for this year's GOP convention were originally set to be held in Charlotte. The decision to move the president's speech, confirmed Thursday, came after Trump butted heads with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, over how to hold the convention amid the coronavirus pandemic. Cooper insisted on maintaining social distancing guidelines for the sake of public health, provoking the ire of the president — who wants a packed house.

Though Trump's speech will now be held in Jacksonville, the official party business of the GOP is still set to take place in Charlotte.


The news that Trump will speak on the anniversary as a KKK attack came a day after the president announced his first rally in months will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is the site of one of the worst incidents of racist violence in the history of the US — the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Trump's rally will also take place on Juneteeth (June 19), a holiday marking the end of slavery in the US.

In short, Trump, who has a well-documented history of racist statements, now has two events on the books that directly coincide with dates and locations intrinsically linked to the country's racist past. And these events will occur amid the backdrop of heightened racial tensions in the US, as people nationwide continue to protest over the ongoing presence of racism in American society.

Trump's GOP convention speech to take place on the 60th anniversary of a KKK attack on Black activists called 'Ax Handle Saturday'
Protesters gather in Harlem to protest the recent death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in New York City.David 'Dee' Delgado/Getty Images

The protests, spurred by the brutal death of George Floyd while in the custody the hands of Minneapolis police, have occurred in concert with a drastic shift in how Americans perceive racism in the US. Recent polling has shown a huge spike in the share of US adults who view racism as pervasive in the US, with a strong majority of the country (including white people) now citing it a "big problem." Along these lines, polling has also shown that most Americans support the demonstrations catalyzed by Floyd's death, which are a rallying cry against racism and police brutality.

Meanwhile, during a week in which Trump has spent a significant amount of time defending the legacy of the racist, traitorous, and ultimately defeated Confederate army, his approval rating has dropped to 39%, according to Gallup.


Jacksonville is roughly 31% Black, and the city's mayor announced earlier this week that all of its Confederate statues would be taken down. Trump has an abysmal approval rating among Black Americans, standing at 12%, according to the most recent numbers from Gallup. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, this week was met with chants of "No RNC! No RNC!" as he marched alongside peaceful protesters, CNN reported.

Rodney Hurst, who was 16 in 1960 and the president of the local Youth Council of the NAACP in Jacksonville at the time of "Ax Handle Saturday," was among those attacked that year. In an interview on Wednesday with the Washington Post, Hurst underscored the importance of the 60th commemoration event while excoriating the president.

"Donald Trump is a racist," Hurst said. "To bring a racist to town for his acceptance speech will only further separate an already racially separated community."

Despite the fact the president changed his residency from New York to Florida last year, Trump may find his presence is unwelcome by many in Jacksonville.

The Trump campaign deferred to the RNC on this matter when contacted by Insider for a comment.


"President Trump has been a champion for the Black community, and we applaud the achievements his administration has made in the areas of economic development, education, and criminal justice reform," Paris Dennard, RNC senior communications advisor for Black media affairs, said in a statement provided to Insider.

"While we cannot erase some of the darkest moments of our nation's past, we can denounce them, learn from them, fight for justice and a more perfect union for every American. That is exactly what President Trump has done. We are excited to showcase the best of Jacksonville and provide a multi-million-dollar boost to their local diverse economy as we nominate Donald J. Trump for the next four years," Dennard added.