The Florida Heritage Book Festival will honor the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act with a special panel on north Florida’s place in that history. The panel will feature Dr. R.B. Hayling, formerly of St. Augustine and now of Fort Lauderdale, Rodney L. Hurst, Sr., Dr. David Colburn, and Charles E. Cobb, Jr.
Charles E. Cobb Jr. After joining the sit-in movement during his freshman year at Howard University in 1961, Charles E. "Charlie" Cobb Jr., went to work in 1962 as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Mississippi Delta, where he met and worked closely with Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and other grassroots leaders. As a SNCC field secretary he conceptualized and proposed the Freedom School program for the 1964 Freedom Summer. Since then, those schools have inspired dozens of similar projects.
Cobb is a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He began his journalism career in 1974 as a reporter for WHUR Radio in Washington, DC. In 1976 he joined the staff of National Public Radio as a foreign affairs reporter, bringing to that network its first regular coverage of Africa. After leaving NPR in 1979 he worked as a freelance writer and reporter. He was the reporter on Frontline's Emmy award-winning "A Class Divided" in 1985. That film focused on the effort of a teacher in the tiny town of Riceville, Iowa to teach her students about racism and discrimination by awarding special privileges to blue-eyed students while discriminating against brown-eyed students. From 1985-97 Cobb was a member of the Editorial Staff of National Geographic magazine—that magazine's first black staff writer.
Cobb's journalism has won several awards including a national Emmy for "A Class Divided." In 1995, a two-part series on Eritrea, Africa's newest nation, that he produced aired on National Public Radio and won the Harry Chapin Award for best radio broadcasting about a developing nation. In 2008 the National Association of Black Journalists honored Cobb's work by inducting him into their Hall of Fame.
His books include On the Road to Freedom, a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail and Radical Equations, Civil Rights From Mississippi to the Algebra Project, co-authored with Robert P. Moses, He was a coeditor of the book, No Easy Victories, American Activists and African Liberation Movements Over a Half Century, 1950-2000 (Africa World Press 2008) His latest book is This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed (Basic Books, June 2014).
Dr. Colburn is a professor of history, an author, director of The Reubin O'D. Askew Institute on Politics and Society, and interim director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. He is author of Racial Change & Community in Crisis, St. Augustine, 1877 to 1980. He is a frequent speaker on civil rights, racial history, politics and government.
Dr. R. B. Hayling was the first African-American dentist in Florida to be elected to local, regional, and state components of the American Dental Association. He was the head of the St. Augustine Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in 1963-64. He has been elected to the 2014 Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame and is known as the father of the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine.
Rodney L. Hurst, Sr., is a civil rights activist and the author of the award-winning book, It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®! Hurst recounts with clarity Jacksonville’s racial atmosphere leading to the bloody events of August 27, 1960, when 200 whites with ax handles and baseball bats attacked members of the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP “sitting in” at white lunch counters. It was never about a Hot Dog and a Coke®! has won more than a dozen local, state and national awards, including the USA Book News First Place Gold Medal Award for Multi-Cultural Nonfiction and the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in Nonfiction.
Hurst speaks extensively on civil rights, Black History, and racism, and is the recipient of numerous recognitions and awards. He was the keynote speaker for the City of Jacksonville’s 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Annual Breakfast, and was featured in the Jacksonville Black History Calendar in 2009 and 2013. Hurst is a Life Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and serves on the Executive Committee of the Jacksonville Branch NAACP. He also serves on the boards of several community organizations in the Jacksonville community.