Jacksonville Florida has a long and often sordid history of race relations, stretching from the pre-civil war establishment of Florida as a state, to the present struggles over Black Lives Matter, and debates over the presence of Confederate monuments and dedication. While a few famous icons from the African American community, as well as a few of the more notorious racial confrontations, are well known in local and academic circles, discussions of the depths of the inequality, brutality, and disenfranchisement are often neglected. Local accounts often focus on historical figures who overcame the odds (e.g. James Weldon Johnson), or confrontations that made national news. Less examined is the impact of historical and current discrimination and inequality on black residents. Educating the public about Conferare monuments, or renaming public buildings, bridges and roads named after “city fathers” who were slave owners, openly racist and KKK leaders, as well as on-going structural inequality in the community is virtually non-existent. In this paper, we explore the work of the Race and Injustice in Jacksonville Research Group, a Community-University partnership documenting the social and economic effects of racism and institutional racism. The partners include a diverse collection of faculty and students from the University of North Florida and Local Community Activists addressing racial inequality and race relations. The goals of the Research Group include developing a series of educational and illuminating films, social media outlets, and public presentations to challenge the community to address the long-term impact of the its racial history.
Dr. Jeffry A. Will is a Professor of Sociology and is currently the Director of the Northeast Florida Center for Community Initiatives, and has been on the UNF faculty since 1993. He earned his undergraduate degree at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and his masters and doctorate degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1994 Dr. Will, along with Drs. Charles E. Owens and Henry Camp, established the Northeast Florida Center For Community Initiatives to provide research and evaluation support for agencies and communities throughout the region and the nation. Dr. Will’s primary areas of research concern poverty, inequality and public policy. In addition to his work at UNF, Dr. Will is on the Board of Directors for the Clara White Mission. He has previously served on the Advisory Board for the Health Care for the Homeless Clinics in Jacksonville, and worked as a consultant and coordinator for the annual Homeless Census and Survey in Jacksonville since 1994.