How much do Jaxsons really know about their city’s history? The WJCT Public Media team asked themselves this question during the celebration of Jacksonville’s 200th anniversary last year, and then set about exploring new ways to tell the parts of the city’s story that are often left out of the public conversation.
The result of that effort is a new podcast Bygone Jax: Our Unsung History, produced in partnership with Florida State College at Jacksonville. “One of our unique strengths as a public media organization is our ability to connect with our community in new ways, and to work with other local institutions as partners,” said David McGowan, CEO of WJCT Public Media, in a press release. “Through Bygone Jax, we’re telling compelling stories on important topics that may have been overlooked by popular media — in a format that reflects our audience’s interests and listening styles.”
Research for Bygone Jax comes from FSCJ, which launched a new History of Jacksonville course in fall 2022. The podcast is hosted by Brendan Rivers, special projects producer at WJCT, and Tammy Cherry, professor of English at FSCJ. Rivers serves as a producer along with Jennifer Gray, public services coordinator for FSCJ’s Library and Learning Commons. “FSCJ continues to find unique ways to show our ongoing commitment to the community we serve,” said FSCJ president John Avendano in the press release. “Bygone Jax is a great way to showcase the extensive research done by our talented faculty and staff in preparation for our new History of Jacksonville class. Through creative storytelling in this format, we are excited to share detailed accounts of the establishment of our city, particularly some of the lesser-known stories about the rich history of Jacksonville.”
Union troops and supporters during the fourth and final occupation of Jacksonville in 1864.
The first two episodes of Bygone Jax dropped February 22. The first episodes tell the story of two Black Union regiments deployed to occupy Jacksonville in March 1863. The soldiers’ mission was to engage Confederate forces, free people enslaved along the St. Johns River, and recruit Black men to join the Union cause. Though the occupation lasted only three weeks, the bravery and success of the Black units sparked significant media coverage. It helped change public opinion on African-Americans serving in the armed forces, ultimately leading Ppresident Abraham Lincoln to approve a full-scale enlistment of Black troops.
WJCT expects future episodes to explore other parts of Jacksonville history that should be better known, including the Timucua civilization in Northeast Florida and Jacksonville’s key role in the development of the film industry in the days of silent movies. Subscribe to Bygone Jax on all major podcast platforms, including NPR One, and find more information on the podcast here.
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at email@example.com.
Bill’s book Secret Jacksonville, a Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure is out now. Order a signed copy at thejaxsonmag.com/books.