In Wake of Jacksonville Attacks, Historically Black Colleges Elevate Security Measures and Maintain Alertness

by Madison Thomas
Heightened Security at Historically Black Colleges

Prior to the tragic killing of three African American individuals in Jacksonville, Florida, over the recent weekend, the assailant—a young white male with rifles adorned with swastika insignias—had parked in a lot at Edward Waters University and began donning tactical attire. Campus students promptly alerted authorities, leading a university police officer to confront the individual, who fled without identifying himself.

These recent attacks resurrect haunting recollections of Ax Handle Saturday, a notorious racially-motivated attack in the same city approximately six decades ago. On that occasion, a group of Ku Klux Klan members armed with ax handles pursued and assaulted 17-year-old Nat Glover, who was exiting his part-time dishwashing job at a local eatery.

Glover, an alumnus and former president of Edward Waters, expressed his sorrow at the unfolding events, including the appearance of the gunman at his alma mater—established in 1866 as the first historically Black college in Florida.

“The current climate is alarmingly racially charged,” Glover, who also once served as Jacksonville’s sheriff, stated. “The divisive narrative pitting communities against one another along racial lines is only escalating.”

Though the shootings transpired in a Dollar General store situated less than a mile from the university in the predominantly African American New Town community, the earlier appearance of the gunman at Edward Waters has reignited concerns about the safety of Black communities and the educational establishments that have traditionally served them.

In just the last year, the FBI launched investigations into bomb threats against over 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across multiple states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, many academic institutions have heightened security measures, requiring identification for campus entry and increasing the presence of security personnel. For instance, Howard University recently received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance security measures.

Earlier this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray, along with other agency officials and community leaders, convened a meeting to discuss the shootings, currently under investigation as hate crimes. Details of the meeting participants were not disclosed by the agency.

Although it remains uncertain whether Edward Waters was specifically targeted, university President Zachary Faison Jr. emphasized that the campus community is thankful that the security measures in place likely prevented the realization of the shooter’s suspected initial intentions.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted that public places such as universities, places of worship, and grocery stores have historically been targeted for racially-motivated domestic terrorism. “The recent incidents should serve as a wake-up call for enhanced vigilance and strengthened security measures,” he said.

Echoing this sentiment, Glover urged that failing to ramp up security would be a gross oversight. During his tenure at Edward Waters from 2011 to 2018, Glover collaborated with Jacksonville Police to station a substation with officers on campus.

According to the HBCU Law Enforcement Executives and Administrators, most campus police at Black colleges are certified law enforcement agencies, complete with sworn officers who are state-certified.

Lt. Antonio Bailey, the officer who confronted the Jacksonville assailant, downplayed his heroic role. He credited the alert students for enabling him to take timely action, but expressed regret for not having enough authority to detain the individual.

Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been criticized for his divisive stances on race and social justice, denounced the shootings and pledged financial support for security at Edward Waters. However, State Rep. Angie Nixon argued that money alone cannot solve problems of systemic racial injustice.

DeSantis’s campaign defended his actions, asserting that the governor has unequivocally condemned the racially-charged murders.

Financial support for The Big Big News education team is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Associated Press holds exclusive responsibility for the content herein.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Heightened Security at Historically Black Colleges

What is the main focus of this article?

The main focus of the article is the elevated security concerns at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the wake of a racially-motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Florida. It delves into the actions being taken by educational institutions to enhance safety measures and examines the broader societal context of racial tensions.

Who are the key figures mentioned in the article?

The key figures mentioned include Nat Glover, an alumnus and former president of Edward Waters University; FBI Director Christopher Wray; University President Zachary Faison Jr.; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Lt. Antonio Bailey, the campus police officer who confronted the assailant; and Governor Ron DeSantis.

What specific security measures are HBCUs implementing?

While the article doesn’t provide exhaustive details, it mentions that some HBCUs have increased the presence of law enforcement officers, social workers, and counselors on campus. Howard University, for instance, received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund two case managers for wellness visits and a field training specialist for staff security training.

How have historical events influenced the current situation?

The article references Ax Handle Saturday, a racially-motivated attack that took place in Jacksonville nearly 60 years ago, to underline the long-standing racial tensions that make such security measures necessary. It also discusses how the September 11, 2001 attacks have led to tightened security at educational institutions more broadly.

What is the political backdrop of the article?

The political backdrop includes criticisms of Governor Ron DeSantis for his stances on race and social justice. State Rep. Angie Nixon suggests that financial contributions alone are insufficient to solve problems rooted in systemic racial injustice.

What was the immediate reaction of Edward Waters University to the incident?

Edward Waters University, the school where the assailant was initially spotted, was thankful that its existing security measures prevented what could have been a tragic incident on its campus. The university president emphasized the importance of vigilance and proactive security measures.

Was the FBI involved in the investigation?

Yes, the FBI is investigating the shooting as a hate crime due to the shooter’s racist motivations. FBI Director Christopher Wray held a call with HBCU leaders to discuss the incident and its broader implications.

What role do students play in campus security?

The article highlights how students at Edward Waters University were vigilant and promptly reported the suspicious individual, enabling campus police to act quickly. Lt. Antonio Bailey credited these students for enabling him to take timely action.

How does this event impact communities beyond educational institutions?

The event has reignited fears about public safety for African Americans in general. Public spaces such as grocery stores and places of worship have also historically been targets for racially-motivated domestic terrorism, extending concerns beyond just educational settings.

More about Heightened Security at Historically Black Colleges

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Security Concerns
  • FBI Hate Crime Statistics
  • Governor Ron DeSantis’ Stance on Racial Issues
  • The History of Ax Handle Saturday
  • Post 9/11 Campus Security Measures
  • Howard University Security Funding
  • National Urban League’s Take on Public Safety
  • State Rep. Angie Nixon’s Statement on Racial Injustice
  • Edward Waters University Campus Security Measures
  • Racial Tensions in the United States

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Nina G August 31, 2023 - 8:19 am

It’s 2023 and we’re still fighting the same battles. The schools, the gov, the community, we all have to do better. Just throwing money at it ain’t enough.

Linda M August 31, 2023 - 9:45 am

As a mom, this terrifies me. Cant even imagine sending my kids off to school with this kind of stuff going on. Where’s the security??

Jenna Q August 31, 2023 - 11:51 am

I appreciate the depth of this article. Really goes into the layers of the issue. But still, what are we actually going to do to fix this?

Emily P August 31, 2023 - 2:09 pm

This just makes me sick. When will this end? And the tie in with Ax Handle Saturday? Its like nothings changed.

Robert K August 31, 2023 - 2:14 pm

So glad Edward Waters took precautions. But seriously, this isn’t just an Edward Waters problem. It’s an everybody problem. We gotta be vigilant.

Mark J August 31, 2023 - 3:41 pm

Man, this is such an eye-opener. We’re still dealing with these issues in 2023? It’s like history is stuck on repeat or something.

Dave L August 31, 2023 - 9:55 pm

Good article but where’s the accountability? Gov. DeSantis throws money at the problem but what about systemic change? just sayin’.

Tim H August 31, 2023 - 11:58 pm

Sad to see my home state in the news for this. The schools are trying but clearly we need more action from those higher up.

Allen R September 1, 2023 - 12:06 am

Yeah, this is bad but where’s the follow up? Who’s gonna make sure that the money given to the schools actually gets used for security?

Sarah W September 1, 2023 - 2:14 am

I can’t believe this still happening. I went to an HBCU and this makes me worry about my younger sibs who are still in school. Schools gotta do better.


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